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WORKING THROUGH 

SCREENS 


100 ideas for envisioning 

143 page ,pdf/11”X17” 

Application Concepting Series 
No. 1 

powerful, engaging, and productive 

With over 100 Illustrations, 
including examples from architecture, 

Also available in .html 

user experiences 

clinical research, and financial trading. 

and “Idea Cards” formats at 
www.Flashbulblnteraction.com 

in knowledge work 

By Jacob Burghardt 

A publication of 

FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc. 







FRONT MATTER | FRAMING THE PROBLEM 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


2 



The category of human efforts sometimes called “knowledge work” 
is growing. 

Knowledge workers are valued for their specialized intellectual skills and 
their ability to act on and with complex information in goal oriented ways. 

In many contexts, the idea of knowledge work has become almost 
synonymous with using a computer, to both positive and negative effect. 

Product teams creating computing tools for specialized workers struggle 
to understand what is needed and to successfully satisfy a myriad of 
constraints. 

As a result of the design deficiencies in these interactive products, people 
experience many frustrations in their working lives. 

Noticeable deficiencies, along with the ones that have invisibly become the 
status quo, can lower the quality and quantity of workers’ desired outputs. 

With so many people in front of so many screens — attempting to practice 
their chosen professions — these deficiencies have real costs. 



FRONT MATTER | FRAMING THE PROBLEM 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


3 


I'm going to do some 

So I'm getting started 

Well, there's one big 

Hmm, this part is just 

Done. But 1 still can't 

of my normal work 

on a normal work 

thing that 1 really 

too long and arduous 

arrive at the quality 

so you can see what 1 

item that 1 tackle all 

don't understand, but 

compared to how 1 

of work that 1 want, 

mean about this new 

the time... 

1 can get around it... 

used to do this... 

no matter what... 


software application 
that I am supposed 
to use all day... 



Needed 

^ Mismatched Hard 

Overly flexible Typical 
Awkwardly dynamic 

Inconsistent Distracting 
Boring Circuitous 

Replaceable 


SUBJECTIVE SATISFACTION 

+ + +~ ++"_■” + + +_T_” “_+ + +~ + 

PROGRESS TOWARD GOAL 


y 


i 8:12 ELAPSED TIME 


FRONT MATTER | FRAMING THE PROBLEM 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


4 



Collectively, we have an infrastructural sense of what these technologies can 
be that tends to limit our ability to imagine better offerings. 

Targeted improvements in the design of these tools can have large impacts 
on workers’ experiences. Visionary design can advance entire fields and 
industries. 

At a basic level, applications can “fit” the working cultures that they are 
designed for, rather than forcing unwanted changes in established activities. 
They can augment rather than redefine. 

When workers alter their culture to adopt a new computing tool, it can be 
solely because that tool provides new meaning and value in their practices. 

Going further, elegantly designed applications can become a joy to use, 
providing an empowering, connective sense of direct action and a pleasing 
sensory environment for people to think “within.” 

Product teams can make significant progress toward these aims by changing 
how they get started on designing their products — by beginning with an 
emphasis on getting to the right design strategy and design concepts long 
before getting to the right design details. 

It is time to start holistically envisioning exemplary new tools for thought that 
target valuable intersections of work activity and technological possibility. 


FRONT MATTER | FRAMING THE PROBLEM 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


5 


Now I've got a new 

1 feel like 1 make 

1 still run into confus- 

And 1 get to a better 

application for doing 

progress toward what 

ing spots and errors, 

conclusion faster, 

the same work, and 

1 want to accomplish 

but it's easier to get 

which feels much 

let me show you how 
much better it is by 
completing the same 

more quickly... 

around them... 

more empowering... 





task with this tool... 


Overall, this new 
tool feels like it just 
belongs in how I 
think about my own 
ways of working... 



Wanted 

^ Meaningful Engaging 

clearly targeted Ext raord i nary 

Eye opening Dependable activity infrastructure 

Domain grounded Mastery building 
Irreplaceable Beautiful 


SUBJECTIVE SATISFACTION 

+ ++ + + - + + + + ~ + + + + 

PROGRESS TOWARD GOAL 


V 


i 6:03 ELAPSED TIME 


FRONT MATTER | PROPOSED HIGH LEVEL APPROACH 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


6 


Extensive concepting, 


based on intensive 
questioning, 

driving visionary, 
collaboratively 
defined strategies 

for exemplary tools 
for thought. 


Suggestions for product teams: 

Deliberately spend more time envisioning, at a high level, what your 
interactive application could be and how it could become valued 
infrastructure in work activities. 

Do not assume that a compelling knowledge work tool will arise solely 
from the iterative aggregation of many discrete decisions during the long 
haul of a product development process. 

Create a divergent ecosystem of concepts for your product’s big picture 
and primary experiences. 

Examine the potential value of reusing expected design conventions — 
while at the same time ideating potential departures and differentiated 
offerings. 

Explore a breadth of directions and strategies before choosing a course. 


Plan on staying true to the big ideas imbedded in the concepts that your 
team selects, while knowing that those ideas will evolve along the way to 
becoming a reality. 


FRONT MATTER | PROPOSED HIGH LEVEL APPROACH 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


Extensive concepting, 


based on intensive 
questioning, 


driving visionary, 
collaboratively 
defined strategies 

for exemplary tools 
for thought. 


7 


Suggestions for product teams: 

Ask more envisioning questions, both within your team and within 
your targeted markets. 

Develop empathy for knowledge workers by going into the field to 
inform your notions of what your product could become. 

Stimulate conversations with this book and other sources relevant to 
the topic of mediating knowledge work with technology. 

Find and explore situations that are analogous to the work practices 
that your team is targeting. 

Keep asking questions until you uncover driving factors that resonate. 
Create visual models of them. 

Focus your team on these shared kernels of understanding and insight. 


Lay the groundwork for inspiration. 



FRONT MATTER | PROPOSED HIGH LEVEL APPROACH 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


8 


Extensive concepting, 


Suggestions for product teams: 


based on intensive 
questioning, 


driving visionary, 
collaboratively 
defined strategies 


for exemplary tools 
for thought. 


Use design thinking to expand upon and transform your product’s 
high level mandates and strategy. 

Continually explore the strategic implications of your team’s most 
inspiring ideas about mediating knowledge work. 

Make projections and connections in the context of key trends and 
today’s realities. 

Think end to end, as if your product was a service, either literally 
or in spirit. 

Build and extend brands based on the user experiences that your 
team is striving to make possible — and how your product will deliver 
on those promises. 


Envision what knowledge workers want and need but do not 
articulate when confronted with a blank canvas or a legacy of 
unsatisfactory tools. 

Invite workers to be your collaborators, maintaining a healthy level 
of humility in the face of their expertise. 


FRONT MATTER | PROPOSED HIGH LEVEL APPROACH 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


Extensive concepting, 

based on intensive 
questioning, 

driving visionary, 
collaboratively 
defined strategies 


for exemplary tools 
for thought. 


9 


Suggestions for product teams: 

Dive into the specific cognitive challenges of knowledge workers’ 
practices in order to uncover new sources of product meaning 
and value. 

Set higher goals for users’ experiences. 

Envision “flashbulb interactions” in targeted activities — augmenting 
interactions that could make complex conclusions clear or open new 
vistas of thought. 

Explore how carefully designed stimuli and behaviors within onscreen 
tools might promote emotional responses that are conducive to 
attentive, focused thinking. 

Surpass workers’ expectations for the potential role of computing in 
their mental lives. 


Raise the bar in your targeted markets, and with it, the bar for all 
knowledge work tools. 



FRONT MATTER | PROPOSED HIGH LEVEL APPROACH 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


10 



Extensive concepting, based on intensive 
questioning, driving visionary, collaboratively 
defined strategies for exemplary 
tools for thought. 


This phrase embodies a suggested overall approach for product teams 
envisioning new or improved interactive applications for knowledge work. 

In support of this suggested approach, this book contains 100 ideas 
— along with many examples and questions — to help product teams 
generate design strategies and design concepts that could become 
useful, meaningful, and valuable onscreen offerings. 


FRONT MATTER 


Table of Contents 


Preface 12 

Introduction: The case for Application Envisioning 13 

Primer on example knowledge work domains 20 

A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND 
DETERMINING SCOPE 

Al. Influential physical and cultural environments 

A2. Workers' interrelations and relationships 

A3. Work practices appropriate for computer mediation 

A4. Standardization of work practice through mediation 

A5. Interrelations of operation, task, and activity scenarios 28 

A6. Open and emergent work scenarios 

A7. Collaboration scenarios and variations 

A8. Local practices and scenario variations 

A9. High value ratio for targeted work practices 

B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 33 

Bl. Named objects and information structures 34 

B2. Flexible identification of object instances 35 

B3. Coupling of application and real world objects 36 

B4. Object associations and user defined objects 

B5. Object states and activity flow visibility 38 

B6. Flagged variability within or between objects 

B7. Object ownership and availability rules 40 

B8. Explicit mapping of objects to work mediation 41 

B9. Common management actions for objects 42 

BIO. Object templates 43 

C. ESTABLISHING AN APPLICATION FRAMEWORK 44 

Cl. Intentional and articulated conceptual models 45 

C2. Application interaction model 46 

C3. Levels of interaction patterns 47 

C4. Pathways for task and activity based wayfinding 48 

C5. Permissions and views tailored to workers' identities 49 
C6. Standardized application workflows 50 

C7. Structural support of workspace awareness 51 

C8. Defaults, customization, and automated tailoring 52 

C9. Error prevention and handling conventions 53 

CIO. Predictable application states 54 


D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 55 

Dl. Respected tempos of work 56 

D2. Expected effort 57 

D3. Current workload, priority of work, and 58 

opportunity costs 

D4. Minimizing distraction and fostering concentration 59 

D5. Resuming work 60 

D6. Alerting and reminding cues 61 

D7. Eventual habit and automaticity 62 

E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 63 

El. Offloading long term memory effort 64 

E2. Offloading short term memory effort 65 

E3. Automation of low level operations 66 

E4. Automation of task or activity scenarios 67 

E5. Visibility into automation 68 

E6. Internal locus of control 69 

F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 70 

FI. Coordinated representational elements 71 

F2. Established genres of information representation 72 

F3. Novel information representations 73 

F4. Support for visualization at different levels 74 

F5. Comparative representations 75 

F6. Instrumental results representations 76 

F7. Highly functional tables 77 

F8. Representational transformations 78 

F9. Simultaneous or sequential use of representations 79 

F10. Symbolic visual languages 80 

Fll. Representational codes and context 81 

G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 

Gl. Narrative experiences 

G2. Levels of selection and action scope 84 

G3. Error prevention and handling in individual interactions 85 

G4. Workspace awareness embedded in interactions 

G5. Impromptu tangents and juxtapositions 

G6. Contextual push of related information 

G7. Transitioning work from private to public view 

H. SUPPORTING OUTCOME EXPLORATION AND 90 

COGNITIVE TRACING 

HI. Active versioning 91 

H2. Extensive and reconstructive undo 92 

H3. Automated historical records and versions 93 

H4. Working annotations 94 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 

II. Flexible information organization 

12. Comprehensive and relevant search 

13. Powerful filtering and sorting 

14. Uncertain or missing content 

15. Integration of information sources 

16. Explicit messaging for information updates 

17. Archived information 


J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 

Jl. Integral communication pathways 
J2. Representational common ground 
J3. Explicit work handoffs 
J4. Authorship awareness, presence, and contact 
facilitation 
J5. Public annotation 

J6. Streamlined standard communications 
J7. Pervasive printing 

K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 

Kl. Application localization 

K2. Introductory user experience 

K3. Recognizable applicability to targeted work 

K4. Verification of operation 

K5. Understanding and reframing alternate interpretations 

K6. Design for frequency of access and skill acquisition 

K7. Clear and comprehensive instructional assistance 

K8. Seamless inter-application interactivity 

K9. Directed application interoperation 

K10. Openness to application integration and extension 

Kll. End user programming 

K12. Trusted and credible processes and content 

K13. Reliable and direct activity infrastructure 


L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 

LI. High quality and appealing work products 
L2. Contemporary application aesthetics 
L3. Iconic design resemblances within applications 
L4. Appropriate use of imagery and direct branding 
L5. Iconoclastic product design 

M. PLANNING CONNECTION WITH USE 

Ml. Iterative conversations with knowledge workers 
M2. System champions 
M3. Application user communities 
M4. Unanticipated uses of technology 


11 


Glossary 

136 

Bibliography 

139 

About the author + 

FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc. 

142 


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FRONT MATTER 


Preface 


When I started the writing that eventually resulted in this book, 
I was driven by a conviction that some critical conversations 
seemed to be missing from the development of new technolo- 
gies for knowledge workers. 

I kept returning to the same four observations about how many 
real world product teams operate: 

1. Many product teams overlook common needs that 
knowledge workers have of their onscreen tools while at 
the same time developing unneeded functionality. These 
teams start with a seemingly blank slate, even when 
many valuable product requirements could be explored 
based on existing, proven understandings of how com- 
puting tools can valuably support knowledge work. 

2. Many product teams' everyday yet pivotal definition 
and design conversations do not sufficiently consider 
knowledge workers' thought processes or how a tech- 
nology might influence them. While individuals in these 
teams may occasionally use terminology borrowed from 
cognitive psychology, the actual details of how a tool 
could meaningfully impact "thinking work" may not 
receive more than a surface examination. 

3. Many product teams struggle to understand the 
knowledge work that they are striving to support. Even 
when some of a team's members have a strong empathy 
for targeted work practices, teams as a whole can have 
mixed levels of success meaningfully translating their 
cumulative understanding into overall models of how 
their tool could valuably mediate certain activities. These 
shared models, when executed well, can guide the defini- 
tion and development of a product's many particulars. 
Without them, resulting applications can become direct 
reflections of a team's lack of guiding focus. 

4. Many product teams begin construction of final 
products with very limited notions of what their finished 
product will be. Whether unintentionally or intentionally, 
based on prevailing ideologies, they do not develop a 
robust design strategy for their application, let alone con- 
sider divergent high level approaches in order to create 

a compelling application concept. Instead, they seem to 
assume that useful, usable, and desirable products arise 
solely from the iterative sum of many small definition, 
design, and implementation decisions. 

These observations would not carry much weight if it was 
not for the current state of computing tools that are available 
to knowledge workers in many vocations. Put simply, these 
products often contain vast room for improvement, especially 
in highly specialized forms of work, where there are concrete 


opportunities to truly tailor technologies to important activities. 
Highly trained individuals, working in their chosen professions, 
commonly spend unnecessary effort acting "on" and "around" 
poorly conceived tools, rather than "through" them. The toll on 
performance and work outcomes resulting from these extra ef- 
forts can be drastic to individual workers, but since it is difficult 
to collectively recognize and quantify, the aggregate of these 
losses remains largely undetected within organizations, profes- 
sions, industries, and economies. 

I believe that current deficiencies in technologies for knowledge 
work are strongly tied to our often low expectations of what it 
can mean to support complicated activities with computing. Our 
shared ideas of what constitutes innovation in this space have, 
in many cases, become tightly constrained by our infrastruc- 
tural sense of what these technologies can and should be. Too 
often, we are not seeing the proverbial forest due to our shared 
focus on a small grove of trees. In our cultural accommodation 
to what computing has come to "mean" in our working lives, it 
seems that we may have lost some of our capacity for visionary 
thinking. 

To regain this vision, product teams can spend more time con- 
sidering what it might actually take to support and build upon 
knowledge workers' skills and abilities. Getting inside of these 
essential problems can require teams to adopt goals that are 
more like those of the pioneers of interactive computing, who 
were driven by the potential for augmenting human capabilities 
with new technologies. When teams extend these pioneering 
ideas by applying them at the intersection of specific activities 
and working cultures, they can discover a similar spirit of con- 
sidered inquiry and exploration. 

Higher order goals — aimed at creating tools for thought to 
be used in targeted work practices, cooperative contexts, and 
technological environments — can lead product teams to ask 
very different questions than those that they currently explore 
during early product development. Through the critical lens 
of these elevated goals, the four observations listed above can 
truly take on the appearance of lost opportunities for innova- 
tion and product success. 

I have personally experienced these lost opportunities in my 
own career researching and designing knowledge work tools 
for domains such as life science, financial trading, and graphic 
design, among others. Even with the best intentions, in 20/20 
hindsight, I did not always have time to think through and apply 
some important ideas — ideas that could have improved prod- 
ucts' design strategies and, in the end, enhanced workers' user 
experiences. There are simply so many useful ideas for these 
complex, multifaceted problems, and under the demands of real 
world product development, time for questioning and explora- 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


12 


tion nearly always passes too quickly. 

Listening to other practitioners in the field, I know that I am not 
alone in making these observations and facing these challenges. 
And yet, when it comes to accessible, practitioner oriented ref- 
erences on these topics, there seems to be large areas of empty 
space waiting to be filled. 

This book is a foray into part of that empty space. The 100 ideas 
contained within can act as shared probes for product teams 
to use in formative discussions that set the overall direction 
and priorities of new or iteratively improved applications for 
thinking work. As a collection, these ideas present a supporting 
framework for teams striving to see past unsatisfactory, "busi- 
ness as usual" technologies in order to create compelling and 
meaningful tools for knowledge workers at the forefronts of 
their fields. 

I look forward to hearing about how these ideas hold up in 
the context of your own product development challenges. My 
sincere hope is that this book provides some measure of inspira- 
tion that leads you to envision tools that promote more pow- 
erful, engaging, and productive user experiences. Knowledge 
workers — those who will opportunistically make use of the 
fruits of your efforts, if you are fortunate — deserve no less. 

Jacob Burghardt 
1 Nov 2008, Seattle, WA 
E - info@Flashbulblnteraction.com 
P- 206.280.3135 


Dedication 

This book is for my grandfather, William Wolfram, who believed 
that the nature of work was changing into something very 
different than what he had experienced at sea, in the fields, 
and on assembly lines — and strongly encouraged me to 
explore what it might mean. 


Acknowledgements 

Since this book feels more like a synthesis with a particular 
perspective than a completely original work, I would like to 
emphatically thank the authors of all the publications that are 
included in the bibliography. I would particularly like to thank 
William Lidwell, Katrina Holden, and Jill Butler — the authors of 
Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, 
Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design 
Decisions, and Teach through Design — which was a key 
inspiration for the format of this work. 

The following reviewers have provided invaluable comments on 
various drafts of this publication: Liberty Harrington, Kristina 
Voros, Amii LaPointe, Myer Harrell, Aaron Louie, Brian Kuan 
Wood, Jessica Burghardt, Matt Carthum, Matt Turpin, Miles 
Hunter, Julianne Bryant, Eric Klein, Chris Ziobro, Jon Fukuda, 
and Judy Ramey. 

I would also like to thank understanding friends who spend 
long, internally motivated, solitary hours working on personal 
pursuits. You made this project seem not only possible, but like 
a good idea. 


Publication Information 

Working through Screens is the inaugural publication of 
FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc. 

This book is available in print on demand, free .html and free 
.pdf formats at www.Flashbulblnteraction.com, where you can 
also find a free, abbreviated "Idea Cards" .pdf version designed 
for use in product ideation exercises. 

All original contents of this publication are subject to the 
Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial- 
ShareAlike http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/) 
unless otherwise noted. Please attribute the work to 
"Jacob Burghardt / FLASHBULB INTERACTION Consultancy." 



FRONT MATTER 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


Introduction: The Case tor Application Envisioning 


The Experience of Modem Knowledge Work 

In a growing number of contemporary workplaces, people are 
valued for their specialized intellectual skills and their ability 
to act on and with complex information in goal oriented ways. 
There is a general sense that many types of work are becom- 
ing more abstract, specialized, complex, improvisational, and 
cerebral. 

Peter Drucker called the people that engage in these types 
of work "Knowledge Workers." Robert Reich, the former U.S. 
Labor Secretary, used the term "Symbolic Analysts" to describe 
a similar category within the workforce. More recently, Richard 
Florida has defined the characteristics of "the Creative Class." 

All three of these terms fall within roughly the same frame, em- 
phasizing the commonality of inventing, producing, interpret- 
ing, manipulating, transforming, applying, and communicating 
information as principle preoccupations of these workers. 

The current experience of this purportedly new work — what it 
feels like to practice a highly trained profession or to simply earn 
a paycheck — has a very different essential character than the 
type of work experiences that were available just a generation 
or two ago. A large part of that change in character is due to the 
extensive use of computing tools in these work practices. 

In essence, the expansion of "knowledge work" as a concept has 
been closely tied to the expansion of computing. Interactive ap- 
plications have become woven into the fabric of vast territories 
of professional activity, and workers are continuously adopting 
new tools into previously "offline" areas. Although these tools 
are not the only focal point for knowledge workers, they are 
becoming a point of increasing gravity as cultures of practice 
continue to co-evolve with these technologies over time. 

Consider these example experiences, which are part of the 
working lives of three fictional knowledge workers who will 
appear throughout this book: 

An architect considers an alternate placement for an in- 
terior wall in order to improve the view corridors within 
a building that she is designing. As she interactively 
visualizes a certain wall placement within a 3D model of 
the building, she pauses to consider its implications for a 
number of the project's requirements. She saves differ- 
ent versions of her design exploration, adding working 
notes on what she thinks of each design direction. Once 
she has created several different directions, she then 
uses the building modeling application to realistically 
render each possibility, compare them in sequence, and 
review a subset of design options with her colleagues. 


A scientist sorts through the results of a recent clinical 
study using an analysis application that automatically 
generates clear and manipulable visualizations of large 
data sets. She uses the tool to visually locate interesting 
trends in the clinical results, narrowing in on unusual 
categories of data at progressively deeper levels of 
detail. To better understand certain selections within the 
complex biological information, she downloads related 
reference content from up to date research repositories. 

A financial trader works through transaction after trans- 
action, examining graphs of key variables and triggering 
his trading application to automatically accept other 
trades with similar characteristics. He uses his market 
information application to analyze trends so that he can 
make better decisions about uncertain and questionable 
deals. As he barrels through as much work as possible 
during his always too short trading day, he values how 
his tools prevent him from making crucial errors while 
permitting him to act rapidly and to great effect. 

While these short descriptions are probably not representative 
of your own day to day activities, it may be easy enough for you 
to imagine how essential interactive applications could become 
in each of these cases. After long periods of accommodation, 
accomplishing many knowledge work goals involves turning to a 
screen, controlling a cursor, entering data, and interacting with 
well known and meaningful representations of information. 
Looking toward future technologies, it is likely that most knowl- 
edge workers will perform at least some of their efforts within 
the bounds of a similar framework for some time to come. 


The Impacts of Application Design 

The design of these computing tools has the potential to make 
massive impacts on working lives. Unless knowledge workers 
are highly motivated early adopters that are willing and able 
to make use of most anything, their experiences as users of 
interactive applications can vary drastically. These differences 
in experience can largely depend on the overall alignment of an 
individual's intentions and understandings with the specifics of 
a tool's design. Since the majority of the computing applications 
in use at the time of writing were not created by the workers 
that use them, this means that the product teams develop- 
ing these applications contribute roughly half of this essential 
alignment between user and computing artifact. To restate this 
common premise, "outside" technologists (of the stripe that 
would likely be drawn to reading this book) often set the stage 
for initial success or failure in workers' experiences of their 
onscreen tools. 


Direct alignment with an augmenting tool can cause surprising 
joy, or at least a sort of transparent, "on to the next thing" sense 
of success. Individuals and organizations can place a high value 
on useful and usable products that support workers' limitations 
while at the same time enhancing their skills. Truly successful 
interactive applications can provide users with tailored function- 
ality that, among other things, facilitates and enhances certain 
work practices, powerfully removes unwanted effort through 
automation, and generates dynamic displays that make complex 
relationships clear. 

In short, when interactive applications are at their thoughtfully 
envisioned best, they can become seemingly indispensable 
in knowledge work. At their most visionary, these tools can 
promote user experiences that provide a sense of mastery and 
direct engagement, the feeling of working through the screen 
on information and interactive objects that become the almost 
palpable subjects of users' intentions. 

Issues in Contemporary Onscreen Tools 

Unfortunately, many knowledge work products present them- 
selves as nowhere near their thoughtfully envisioned best. 
Workers too often find that many parts of their specialized 
computing tools are not useful or usable in the context of their 
own goals or the larger systems of cultural meaning and activity 
that surround them. Problematic applications can continuously 
present workers with confusing and frustrating barriers that 
they must traverse in order to generate useful outcomes. At 
their poorly envisioned worst, computing tools can — contrary 
to marketing claims of advanced utility — effectively deskill 
users by preventing them from acting in ways that even remote- 
ly resemble their preferred practices. Not exactly the brand 
promise that anyone has in mind when they start the ball rolling 
on a new technology. 

If one was to summarize the status quo, it might sound some- 
thing like this: when it comes to interactive applications for 
knowledge work, products that are considered essential are not 
always satisfactory. In fact, they may be deeply flawed in ways 
that we commonly do not recognize given our current expec- 
tations of these tools. With our collective sights set low, we 
overlook many faults. 

Poorly envisioned knowledge work applications can: 

Attempt to drive types of work onto the screen that are 
not conducive to being mediated by interactive comput- 
ing as we know it today. New applications and functional- 
ities are not always the answer, and some work practices 


can be more effectively accomplished outside of the 
confines of a computer. 

Fail to reflect essential divisions of how work is seg- 
mented within targeted organizations, forcing unwanted 
redefinition of individuals' roles and responsibilities and 
creating new opportunities for day to day errors in 
workers' practices. 

Introduce new work processes that standardize activi- 
ties in unwelcome ways. When technologies inappropri- 
ately enforce strict workflow and cumbersome interac- 
tion constraints, these tools can force knowledge workers 
to create and repeatedly enact unnecessarily effortful 
workarounds in order to reach desired outcomes. 

Lack clear conceptual models of what they, as tools, 
are intended to do, how they essentially work, and how 
they can provide value. Inarticulate or counter intuitive 
conceptual models, which often stem from a product 
team's own confusion about what they are creating, can 
lead workers to develop alternate conceptions of ap- 
plication processes. These alternate models may in turn 
lead to seemingly undiagnosable errors and underutilized 
functionality. 

Present workers with confusing data structures and 
representations of information that do not correlate to 
the artifacts that they are used to thinking about in their 
own work practices. To effectively use an application built 
upon unfamiliar abstractions, workers must repeatedly 
translate their own domain expertise to match a system's 
definitions. 

Encourage a sense of information overload by allowing 
individuals and organizations to create and store large 
volumes of valuable information without providing them 
sufficient means to organize, visualize, navigate, search 
or otherwise make use of it. 

Disrupt workers' attentions, and the essential cognitive 
flow of intensive thinking work, with unnecessary 
content and distracting messaging. 

Require workers to waste effort entering specifics and 

"jumping through hoops" that neither they nor their 
organizations perceive as necessary. 

Force workers to excessively translate their goals into 
the constraints of onscreen interaction, even after 
extended use. All applications require their users to act 
within the boundaries of their functional options, but 
certain constraints on basic actions may be too restrictive 
and cumbersome. 



FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


Introduce automation that actually makes work more 
effortful, rather than less. Without appropriate visibility 
into an automated routine's processing, workers can be 
left with the difficult challenge of trying to understand 
what has been automated, if and where problems have 
occurred, and how to fix important issues. 

Hide useful historical cues about how content came to 
be in its current state, while preventing workers from 
restoring certain information to its earlier incarnations. 

Tools without these capabilities can increase the diffi- 
culty of recovering from errors, which can in turn reduce 
creativity and scenario oriented thinking in dynamic 
interactions. 

Leave workers without sufficient cues about the activi- 
ties of their colleagues. This lack of awareness can lead 
to misunderstandings, duplicated effort, and the need to 
extensively coordinate efforts outside the computing tool 
itself. These negative effects may be found in intrinsically 
collaborative work as well as efforts that are not typically 
recognized as having cooperative aspects. 

Fail to support informal communication in the con- 
texts where knowledge work is accomplished, as well as 
provide direct means for actively initiating conversations 
about key outputs. These omissions can make essential 
communication acts more effortful, as workers attempt 
to create common ground and tie their ideas back into 
application content while using separate, "outside" 
communication channels. 

Lack needed connectivity options for individuals and 
organizations to tie the product's data and functionalities 
into their broader technology environments. Resulting 
applications can become isolated "islands" that may 
require considerable extra effort in order to meaningfully 
incorporate their capabilities and outputs into important 
work activities. 

These example points, which represent just a sampling of the 
many problems that can be found in poorly envisioned knowl- 
edge work applications, call attention to the fact that these po- 
tential issues in users' experiences are not "soft" considerations. 
All of these points have implications for workers' satisfaction 
with a computing tool, their discretionary use of it, the quantity 
and quality of their work outcomes, and their perceptions of a 
product's brand. The sum of the above points can be viewed as 
a fundamental threat to the core goals of organizations that are 
seeking to adopt new technologies as a means of supporting 
their knowledge workforces. 


Making Do with the Status Quo 

Since many of today's applications contain a mixture of both 
clear and direct functional options and functionality that is 
frustrating, obtuse, and effectively useless, knowledge workers 
often become skilled at identifying those portions of technolo- 
gies that demonstrate benefits relevant to their challenges. 
Individuals tend to weed out problematic features from their 
practices, while at the same time salvaging tried and true 
methods. Over time, the plasticity of mind and culture can dis- 
play a remarkable ability to overcome barriers and interweave 
"satisficed" benefits. After considerable effort, established work 
arounds and narrow, well worn paths of interaction can emerge. 
An uncompelling, difficult tool can become another necessary 
reality. The status quo continues, despite the ongoing promise 
of augmenting specialized, thinking work with computing. 

At the level of individual knowledge workers' experiences, 
attempting to adopt and use poorly conceived applications can 
lead to frustration, anxiety and fatigue. These negative mental 
states are not conducive to people successfully accomplishing 
their goals or being satisfied in their working lives. Put another 
way, knowledge work applications have the capacity to detract 
from the pleasure and well being that people experience as 
part of working in their chosen professions. Knowledge workers 
often do not contribute their efforts solely for compensation in 
an economic sense; their actions are intertwined with personal 
purpose and identity. For this reason, a major deficiency in a 
knowledge work application can be said to have a different 
essential quality than a failure in, for example, an entertainment 
technology. When a knowledge work application becomes an 
obstruction in its users' practices, vital time and effort is wasted. 
Beyond the obvious business implications of such obstructions, 
it is difficult to sufficiently underscore the potential importance 
of these losses to individual workers, especially when develop- 
ing products for highly skilled individuals who are seeking to 
make their chosen contributions to society and the world. 

So how did we get here? Where did this status quo come from? 
Why are these tools not better designed? Why do the brand 
names of so many knowledge work products conjure disdain, 
or only a vague sense of comfort after having been exten- 
sively used — instead of something more extraordinary? We 
can assume that no product team sets out to deliver a poorly 
conceived tool to knowledge workers. And yet, even with good 
intentions, that is what many have done and continue to do. 
Ironically, even tools designed for niche, domain specific 
markets — which can represent the most concrete opportu- 
nities to create truly refined tools for specific work practices 
— are not immune to these problems. In fact, they may be 
especially susceptible to them. 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


14 


First Steps of Application Design 

Taking a step back, it can be useful to examine the early, initiat- 
ing steps that lead to the creation of a knowledge work ap- 
plication. Plans for a new or revised computing tool can arise 
in a variety of ways, though there are some common patterns 
to their early gestations. In general, a small core of initiators 
defines a product's principle mandates before a broader cross 
section of team members and disciplines are brought onto a 
project. These early conversations may take on very different 
forms depending on, for example, whether a product represents 
a disruptive technology or a competitive entry into an estab- 
lished category of knowledge work tools. In any case, teams' 
invest some part of their formative discussions considering their 
offerings' potential driving forces, brand positioning, and under- 
lying technological characteristics. These efforts typically involve 
modeling ideas about potential opportunities in targeted 
market segments, which often correspond to a particular 
range of knowledge work specialties and organization types. 

During this early initiation, product strategy efforts for knowl- 
edge work applications often do not involve "design thinking" 
in any real sense. When faced with the complexities of scoping 
and conceiving a viable computing tool, design ideation, at the 
time of writing, seems to typically take a back seat role. This 
is in stark contrast to many other types of products, especially 
outside of computing, where design thinking is increasingly 
being used as a key approach in early, initiating conversations. 
One does not need to look very far to see how generative 
concepting of potential user experiences has become a central 
exercise in the development of many of today's successful 
brands and product strategies. Yet in the much "younger" and 
relatively distant disciplines that develop complex onscreen 
applications, the potential for design's strategic contributions 
has not been adequately recognized. 


Getting to Design Details Too Quickly 

At the end of a knowledge work product's initiating conversa- 
tions, when it appears that a project will become a funded and 
staffed reality, there is often a strong desire from all involved to 
see "something" other than high level abstraction and textual 
description. The common response to this desire is where 
foundational user experience problems begin to crystallize. In a 
characteristic straight to the details progression, teams quickly, 
instinctually move from high level consideration of product 
strategy into the smallest specifics of a product's definition, 
design, and implementation. Their approach jumps abruptly 
from the global to the extremely granular, without the connec- 
tive tissue of a holistic middle ground. 


Part of the reason for this jump in collective mindset is an 
increase in team size. Left to their own devices, newly added 
team members often gravitate toward the level of granular- 
ity that is their primary focus during the extended course of 
product development. To a specialist, this makes perfect sense. 
These detailed skills are what they are typically valued and 
promoted for, and their narrow expert perspectives are pre- 
sumably why they are brought onto projects in the first place. 
The problem with these assumptions is that, when getting into 
details too soon and too narrowly, specialists' decisions may 
be under informed and lacking a larger vector of creativity and 
guiding constraints. 

The commonly cited maxim of the influential designer Charles 
Eames, "the details are not the details, the details make the 
design," is a useful truism in the extended development of 
viable computing applications for knowledge work. After all, if a 
specific part of a user interface is missing important options for 
the work practices that a tool is designed for, then its usefulness 
and usability will suffer during real world interactions. Armed 
with this understanding, some technologists immediately begin 
their journey away from the vagaries of a product's strategy 
toward something more "real." Without considering how they 
might be stifling their own success and innovations, these teams 
begin haphazardly anticipating workers' detailed needs and 
possible complaints as a means of sketching a satisfactory 
concept for their product. 

The path of the straight to the details progression is predictable 
and common. Product teams enacting this progression begin 
implementing without the vector of a larger design strategy to 
guide them through the many highly specific choices that will 
inevitably follow. Their initial conception of their product is rela- 
tively simplistic, but they believe that they can continually map 
out the complex specifics along the way, whether in diagram- 
matic illustrations, textual specifications, or in working code. 
They move forward with the implicit assumption that interactive 
applications, being made of abstract computer language, are 
somehow highly malleable, and that all encompassing "fixes" 
can be made when needed. 

In reality, product teams creating knowledge work applica- 
tions rarely have the luxury of extensive downstream revisions, 
despite their deep seated assumptions to the contrary. When 
they do enjoy the luxury of such changes, the cost of these 
revisions can be prohibitively high. For this reason, key correc- 
tions, additions, and improvements are all too often put off for 
the "next version," or "next public release" with the assumption 
that users will be able to work their way around any issues in 
the meantime. Facing limited resources and complex challenges, 
many teams develop distorted notions of what constitutes 
acceptable, or even exceptional, quality and user experience. 



FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


15 


While specifying every detail of a complex interactive applica- 
tion before any implementation takes place is also not generally 
considered a viable approach to product development, at the 
time of writing, the pendulum seems to have swung too far in 
the direction of improvising design strategy. Prevailing straight 
to the details ideologies are largely out of step with the reality 
of resulting product outcomes. A survey of the inflexibilities, 
over extended interaction frameworks, and scattered concep- 
tual models of contemporary knowledge work products in many 
domains can sufficiently prove this point. 


Adding Features Until “Magic Happens” 

Behind the straight to the details progression is a belief that a 
successful, even visionary, product will somehow emerge from 
the sum of countless detailed definition, design, and implemen- 
tation decisions (see Figure 1). In this view, applications can 
evolve from a collection of somewhat modular pieces, so long 
as the assemblage does not somehow "break" in the context of 
users' human limitations and cultural expectations. Keep work- 
ing on the details and magic will happen — or so the assump- 
tion goes. 

The larger gestalt of an interactive application receives little or 
no consideration in this framing of product development. Teams 
with this mindset do not typically sketch diverse concepts for 
how their creation could mediate work practice in appropri- 
ate, innovative, and valuable ways. To overstate the case, many 
product teams believe that knowledge workers can be support- 
ed by directly giving them what they want, adding details to a 
tool as needed in a somewhat systematic manner. This approach 
may work for a while — until tools collapses along fundamental, 
structural fault lines of conceptual clarity, information display, 
and meaningful consistency. 

Even though the magic happens expectation often results in 
poorly designed computing tools for knowledge work, the 
straight to the details progression may be successfully applied 
to other types of onscreen products. This might explain why 
many product teams creating knowledge work applications 
still hold on to these shared assumptions — there are positive 
examples and well known brand names that can serve as their 
reference points. When a product's goals are relatively simple 
or very well characterized, as in a highly established genre of 
application, teams can have a shared grounding without actively 
taking time to grow that collective understanding. For example, 
everyone in a typical product team probably understands how 
a collaborative calendar application works, because they use 
them every day. If their understanding happens to be less than 
complete, team members can probably round out their views 


FIGURE 1 . COMMON APPROACH TO ITERATIVE APPLICATION DESIGN 



Begin creating individual 
features, without spending 
any time in the space 
between high level product 
strategy and detailed 
product implementation 


Iteratively add more discrete 
parts, without considering 
overarching ideas about 
how the application could 
mediate knowledge work 


Until magic happens, 
somehow unifying the 
aggregation of separately 
created minutiae 



And a cohesive, or at least 
satisfactory, application 
supposedly emerges 

In reality, such products 
may be deeply and 
frustratingly flawed, 
driving poor user experience 
and lesser outcomes in 
targeted knowledge work 


FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


without too much difficulty or discussion. A product team may 
even be able to create real innovations in this kind of applica- 
tion by making incremental changes in small details based on 
assumptions about unmet needs. 


Crucial Understanding Gaps 

Tools for specialized knowledge work typically do not fit this sort 
of "make it up as we go" mold. One of the main reasons is that 
product teams inevitably have a difficult time understanding the 
work practices that they are striving to mediate. They do not 
tacitly know the cultures that they are attempting to support. A 
base level of understanding about larger systems of activity and 
meaning is necessary in order to design a useful tool that will be 
well suited for those systems. Teams need to understand what 
the architect Eliel Saarinen spoke of as the "next larger context." 
Software developers, for example, do not inherently know what 
it means to analyze clinical research data, let alone how that 
data fits into the larger flows of activity within a research lab. 

When technologists find it difficult to understand the many 
specifics of foreign and elaborate work practices, they may 
unwittingly hold onto an initial, roughly hewn, consensus view 
about knowledge workers' activities and needs. This view 
can become their framing point of reference throughout the 
development of their product, despite incoming information 
that could valuably transform it. In practice, the momentum of 
a disoriented group's initial concept for their computing tool 
often places certain ideas at the primary, driving core of what 
is eventually developed and released. What the architect and 
psychologist Bryan Lawson calls a "primary driver" takes hold in 
their design outputs. And in these cases, as end users of such 
products can attest, magic does not often happen. 


Uncritical Reliance on Pioneering Ideas 

If the pioneers of interactive computing had only been thinking 
about detailed design decisions, at the expense of the bigger 
picture, they would have likely never envisioned many of the 
conventions that we commonly use today. For example, Douglas 
Englebart, a pivotal figure in the pioneering era, has defined 
much of his working life based on a series of epiphanies about 
how technology could enhance human problem solving. 

During a time when computers were still primarily used for 
batch process mathematical tasks, he envisioned remarkable 
possibilities for the application of computing to knowledge 
work. Of particular interest is Englebart's astonishing 1962 
description of an architect using interactive computing as a 
fluid part of complex work practices, long before such a future 


had been realized. In his essay "Augmenting Fluman Intellect: 

A Conceptual Framework," Englebart outlined how an architect 
might use a computer to review a symbolic representation of 
a building site; consider different scenarios in excavation and 
building design; refer to handbook and catalog resources; locate 
windows so that light is not reflected into the eyes of passing 
drivers; examine the resulting structure to ensure that it does 
not contain functional oversights; and store the resulting work 
for later retrieval and annotation by stakeholders (the architec- 
tural examples used throughout this book are an homage to 
Englebart's landmark application concept). 

Pioneers of interactive computing, such as Englebart, did not 
have the luxury of working only at the detailed level of their 
emerging creations. They also set the vision and goals for their 
own and subsequent generations of technological development. 
Looking objectively at the conversations taking place in product 
teams today, it appears that many technologists are relying very 
heavily on these and other proceeding foundations. Not on the 
intellectual spirit of these foundations, but on their literal con- 
ventions. As knowledge work applications have become stan- 
dardized and commonplace within technologists' worldviews, 
it seems that we may have all become limited by a shared, infra- 
structural sense of what these tools can and should be. People 
creating these products have, to some extent, stopped examin- 
ing them through a critical lens that could uncover important 
new possibilities. As they continue to copy and tweak existing 
standards, we become increasingly accustomed to a certain rate 
of change and a certain level of generic, all purpose design. 

While vernacular evolution certainly has its place, repetition 
of familiar patterns is clearly not the entire picture of excep- 
tional design process. Knowledge work tools can be much more 
than the sum of their discrete functional parts. A sole focus on 
detailed salvaging and assembling of the past leaves no room 
for other, important pursuits. If product teams do not explore 
different strategies for their application's overall approach to 
mediating work, how will they imagine new tools that truly 
and valuably fit into workers' specialized thought processes 
and cultures? 


Embracing a More Strategic Creativity 

Appropriate and exciting concepts for knowledge work tools are 
built on holistic vision, not just pattern matching and incremen- 
tal iteration. They require a carefully considered design strategy 
to tame their potential complexities into clear, useful, and 
desirable simplicity. 

The very idea of design strategy implies the selection of one 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


16 


direction from a pool of potential approaches, yet the magic 
happens expectation restrains breadth and ideation by promot- 
ing a narrow track of implemented reality. In essence, teams 
following the straight to the details progression are practic- 
ing single vision and concept design. The essential, elemental 
"shapes" of their products are the shapes that happen to unfold 
in front of them after the sum of many small decisions. They 
deemphasize a larger type creativity, which in turn reduces 
possibilities for useful and compelling innovation. 

So how can product teams creating interactive applications for 
knowledge work embrace this larger type of creativity? If the 
straight to the details progression, the magic happens expec- 
tation, and single vision and concept design characterize the 
mindset that eventually leads to problematic or failed comput- 
ing tools, what mindset can teams adopt to avoid these pitfalls? 


Introducing Application Envisioning 

Generally speaking, product teams can cultivate a perspective 
of targeted yet open exploration, without analysis paralysis. 

They can spend more time in the space between product 
origination and product implementation. They can create an 
environment where divergence and a multiplicity of ideas are 
valued in their discussions. They can forgo an early emphasis 
on specifics by creating abstract models that visualize their 
understandings and outline potential spaces of design possibil- 
ity. They can ask more questions in their targeted markets and 
sketch novel concepts for how their products could play a role in 
knowledge work, while documenting tangible evidence of their 
ideas. They can balance top down decision making with bottom 
up input from knowledge workers in order to synthesize singular 
design strategies. These strategies can embody a strong brand 
positioning and the grounding of a team's best application 
concept, assembled from a core set of sketched functionalities 
that target a carefully chosen scope of work practices. 

This suggested approach can be summarized by the following 
phrase, which appears in the opening pages of this book: 

Extensive concepting, based on intensive questioning, 
driving visionary, collaboratively defined strategies for 
examplary tools for thought. 

Is there a repeatable methodology or process to advance this 
change in mindset and general approach? Not in any strict 
sense, because these explorations are very emergent and free- 
form, despite their focused nature. However, a name for this 
period between project initiation and project implementation 
could allow teams to effectively plan for it. The term application 


envisioning suggests an early, separate interval in product de- 
velopment in which teams can intentionally and collaboratively 
consider potential design strategies and design concepts for 
their computing tool, rather than sliding down a largely uncon- 
sidered course (see Figure 2 on the next page). 

Application envisioning can allow teams to cultivate empathy 
for targeted knowledge workers and their worlds, lay the ground 
work for inspiration, explore diverse questions and ideas about 
what their product could be, and develop a shared, big picture 
view — with the assumption that many important details will 
need to be fleshed out along the way to a completed release. 

One (increasingly routine) process suggestion for application en- 
visioning is that this early, explorative time presents a significant 
opportunity for product teams to get out of their offices and 
into the field. Teams can strive for "what it's like" understanding 
of knowledge workers' current experiences by directly observ- 
ing and engaging in their worlds. While immersed in the activi- 
ties that they are striving to mediate with computing, teams can 
uncover unmet needs and other important insights for design 
strategy. This immersion may also lead them to start think- 
ing about their product as a service, either literally or in spirit, 
which can highlight new areas for innovation through ongoing, 
networked connection. Teams may take a sense of partnership 
with targeted workers so far as to invite them to become 
collaborators, maintaining a healthy level of humility in the 
face of their expertise. 

Another process suggestion is for product teams to look outside 
of the work that they are targeting in order to cast new light on 
their envisioning questions and their emerging design concepts. 
While pioneering figures of interactive computing had to work 
from an essentially blank slate, today's technologists do not 
have to start from square one when they think about what it 
might mean to augment certain thought processes and activities 
with computing. There is a growing body of research and 
critical perspective that teams can use as lenses for making 
sense of these complex, multifaceted design problems. In order 
to extract potential strategic principles, teams can examine 
computing tools that have been successfully adopted into 
similar activity contexts within other types of work practice. 
Advanced analogies to products in other domains can lead to 
inspiration that may fuel truly novel solutions that draw upon 
seemingly unrelated fields of endeavor. 

The idea of application envisioning has strong parallels to mind- 
sets found in other, older design disciplines, whose practitioners 
more commonly apply design thinking in strategic ways. For ex- 
ample, product teams creating computing tools for knowledge 
work can learn a great deal about envisioning new technolo- 
gies from the successful practices of the best industrial design 



FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


17 


teams. These teams also shape peoples' daily lives through their 
creations, albeit with a focus on the mass produced, physical 
embodiment of material culture. Industrial designers typically 
take time early in their projects to explore different concepts so 
that they can divine the "right" overarching direction for their 
product, rather than immediately honing in on and elaborating 
a single solution. These designers often conduct various forms 
of research, synthesizing models of their problem space before 
moving forward into design ideation. Once they begin ideating, 
they typically sketch thumbnail after thumbnail of potential 
options, long before they even consider realistic renderings or 
exacting specifications. From these early explorations in "design 
research," industrial design teams can uncover important con- 
straints, possibilities, and languages for their product. They can 
discover potential emotional connections with end users and 
gain empathy for the context of a successful offering and brand, 
all of which puts them in strong position to define singular and 
compelling design strategies. 


FIGURE 2. APPLICATION ENVISIONING APPROACH TO DESIGN 



The Higher Goals of “Flashbulb Interactions” 

Envisioning a diverse range of appropriate possibilities for a 
product is not an easy task. Even with a shared emphasis on 
a multiplicity of ideas, practitioners of all design disciplines 
sometimes face the lure of literal, small scale iteration of known 
patterns when more innovative responses could be appropriate, 
valuable, and feasible. Application envisioning efforts can rep- 
resent a fundamental change in how product teams define and 
design interactive applications, but this change alone may not 
be enough to arrive at exceptional tools for knowledge workers. 
Without higher order goals that aim to truly augment peoples' 
intellectual skills and abilities, application envisioning can 
become just another phase in product development, without 
any of the intended, strategic payoffs. A team's own infrastruc- 
tural grounding in the conventions of computing can easily stifle 
threads of divergent, meaningful concepting. The gravity of the 
known can easily preclude more creative questions and 
proposals. 

A new term may be useful to product teams as they attempt 
to uncover new sources of value in knowledge work comput- 
ing. Flashbulb interactions are a branch of sorts off of the term 
"flashbulb memories," coined in 1977 by Roger Brown and 
James Kulik in the psychology literature. A flashbulb memory 
is a recollection that stands out as a clear and pivotal moment, 
a punctuated experience in the compilation of one's past. In a 
similar vein, a flashbulb interaction is one of those rare 
moments when an interactive application impacts a knowledge 
worker in some profoundly positive way, such as making a 
complex conclusion clear or opening up a new vista of thought. 


Spend more time in the 
space between high level 
product strategy and 
detailed product 
implementation 


Meaningfully question what 
it could mean to mediate 
certain knowledge work 
activities with technology: 
observing and talking with 
targeted workers, 
collaboratively modeling 
the problem space, 
and sketching diverse 
design concepts 


Strategically synthesize 
the fittest overarching 
vision and concept 
for your product from 
among an ecosystem 
of envisioned futures 


Then move forward with your 
chosen design strategy and 
design concepts, expanding 
upon details, iteratively 
implementing and gathering 
further input 


FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


Product teams can explore how their computing tools might 
promote flashbulb interactions by beginning their projects with 
these high level questions: 

What are the big picture problems that knowledge 
workers currently face in their work practices? What 
mental work is currently difficult? 

How might our application transform abstract and 
taxing mental work into dynamic, highly visual, direct, 
and appealing interactions? 

How could our interactive application help knowledge 
workers accomplish the best work of their professional 
lives? What would those outcomes look like? 

How could our application support highly valued work 

outcomes that could not be attained without its func- 
tionalities? 

How could our application reduce or eliminate routine 
tedium in knowledge workers' experiences, while al- 
lowing them to use their expertise in new and valuable 
ways? 

How could our application foster and clarify useful 
communication and collaboration? 

How could our application promote a sense of confident 
power and uninterrupted, focused engagement? 

How might the transition to using our application be a 
pleasurable experience that workers will remember for 

years to come, especially when they reflect on how they 
used to accomplish the same goals? 

These questions are a direct attack on low expectations of 
technologies for knowledge work. They contain an optimism 
that is similar to pioneering questions that lead to the cre- 
ation of interactive computing, but they can be applied to the 
grounded particulars of specific challenges that product teams 
face today. Most importantly, when technologists have asked 
these questions, they may find it difficult to fall back on literal, 
small scale iteration of known design patterns, knowing full well 
that more innovative responses could be appropriate, valuable, 
and feasible. 

Product teams are not likely to know if and when they have 
generated design strategies and conceptual sketches that could 
result in products that meet these aspirations, but that sort of 
absolute decision making is not the point of conducting these 
inquiries. Instead, teams can pose these and other questions 
about flashbulb interactions in order to take their eyes off of 
the conventional state of knowledge work computing and begin 
considering potential narratives for exceptionally positive user 


experience. This change in perspective can uncover surprising 
ideas and design constraints that, in turn, can help teams to 
better understand deep seated opportunities that their 
application might address, as well as what those solutions 
might look like. 

Summary of Case for Application Envisioning 

To summarize, contemporary computing tools for knowledge 
work often contain significant design deficiencies — both 
recognized and overlooked — that detract from people's 
working lives. Looking beyond the current state of these tools, 
interactive computing has remarkable potential for improving 
thinking work. An early emphasis on design strategy and design 
concepts, not design details, can be crucial for developing truly 
successful computing tools in this space. Product teams that 
embrace early envisioning as a central exercise in application 
development, along with significantly elevated goals for user ex- 
periences, can generate appropriate and innovative possibilities 
for emerging generations of knowledge work tools. By intensely 
questioning what it could mean to mediate specific thought 
processes and work practices with an interactive application, 
these teams can develop tools that deliver more enjoyable and 
relevant experiences, better work outcomes, improved brand 
loyalty, and other valuable results. 

Using This Book 

This book is a tool for product teams to use as they envision 
new or iteratively improved knowledge work applications. It 
presents 100 ideas that can remind teams of common factors 
for the design of extraordinary computing tools, helping them 
to generate a greater diversity of sketched models, frameworks, 
and concepts. Each concisely presented envisioning idea is a 
specific consideration for early, formative conversations about 
what an application might become. These random access 
topics are intentionally enmeshed and overlapping, not mutu- 
ally exclusive. The categorization of the 100 ideas sketches an 
overall framework and is intended to improve their collective 
accessibility as an envisioning reference. The resulting collection 
is a practitioner oriented synthesis that can expand the range of 
questions that product teams explore as they generate poten- 
tial design strategies and design concepts — inherently raising 
their shared expectations for their products' positive impacts on 
knowledge work. 

The 100 ideas themselves can be traced to a range of sources 
and perspectives in product strategy, human factors, human 
computer interaction, systems analysis, industrial design, 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


18 


interaction design, information architecture, usability research, 
computer science, and other professional specialties. Many 
of the ideas are rooted in commonly cited considerations and 
guidelines, though they have been framed here specifically for 
use while envisioning computing tools for knowledge work. 
Some of these commonly cited points call out specific function- 
alities that are currently available in a subset of contemporary 
products, while others touch upon broader connections to the 
technological contexts that workers' practice within. This book 
also borrows liberally from those authors who have put forward 
ideas that have advanced my own work as a practitioner provid- 
ing research, strategy, and design services. These publications 
can be found in the bibliography. Beyond commonly cited ideas 
and valued references, a number of the 100 ideas can be traced 
back to specific stories from real world product teams. These 
envisioning ideas were considered assumptions in some groups 
of technologists and missing in others groups in a way that 
pointed to their value. 

A variety of audiences may find the 100 ideas in this book 
useful: 

Product managers and other leaders within organiza- 
tions can use these ideas to promote innovative design 
strategies and to inspire their teams to set higher goals 
for product success. 

Researchers investigating the characteristics, practices, 
and potential technological desires of certain populations 
of knowledge workers can use these ideas to outline a 
broader range of questions for their studies. 

Definers of interactive applications can use these ideas 
as probes to generate models and stimulate strategic 
thinking in workshops and other requirements 
elaboration efforts. 

Designers of interactive applications can use these ideas 
to identify important user experience factors for differ- 
ent activity contexts, to sketch a broader range of design 
concepts, and to make more informed decisions about 
design strategy in this space. 

Stakeholders and influences in application envision- 
ing can use these ideas to drive product teams toward a 
broader conversation about what it might mean to 
valuably augment specific types of knowledge work. 

Students may find this survey of factors informative, 
gaining a sense for the potential breadth of consider- 
ations that can influence the design of these 
computing tools. 


Book Approach and Exclusions 

Although much of the text is written as if the reader is part of 
product team designing a new knowledge work application, the 
same ideas can apply when revising or extending an existing 
tool. Similarly, the tone — but not the primary information — 
of this book often reflects the interests of product teams work- 
ing in commercial contexts. Please note that this book's ideas 
might be just as applicable to tools created by an open source 
community or developed internally within knowledge work 
organizations. 

100 ideas is a very round number, and it points to the limita- 
tions of this book. Just as there is no set recipe for effective 
product development, there are many other, equally valid ideas 
for envisioning interactive applications for knowledge work. The 
ideas in this book were selected due to their potential impacts 
in a wide range of application envisioning conversations. Many 
of the ideas represent generally important considerations that 
are commonly overlooked in contemporary products. That 
being said, some of the ideas will presumably be much more 
important for specific product contexts than others. None of the 
100 ideas are universals or do-or-die edicts. Please take them or 
leave them, depending on the situation you find yourself in and 
your belief in their value. 

The reader will find few mentions of specific technologies in this 
book, other than frequent references to certain genres of net- 
worked applications used in architecture, clinical research, and 
financial trading. For example, this book does not focus on Web 
technologies, even though the 100 envisioning ideas could be 
extensively applied to Web based tools. There are also limited 
references within the 100 ideas to specific methodologies, other 
than some general approaches to modeling work practice (the 
hierarchy of operations, tasks, and larger activities is coarsely 
adapted from Alexei N. Leontiev's Activity Theory) and interac- 
tions (Ben Shneiderman's "Object-Action Interface Model," 
without its emphasis on direct manipulation). This exclusion of 
extensive technology and methodology references was inten- 
tional. Ideally, product teams using very different technological 
foundations and methodological approaches will find this book 
to be useful. In the end, all viable methodologies have some 
place for determining an application's essential form and direc- 
tion, regardless of what that particular process box happens to 
be called. Please insert this book's application envisioning ideas 
there. 

Although this book contains ideas for the development of new 
technologies, it is anything but some attempt at distant futur- 
ism. Instead, the focus here is primarily on personal comput- 
ing applications that could conceivably be in front of the eyes 
of knowledge workers at the time of writing, given the state 



FRONT MATTER | INTRODUCTION 


of contemporary technologies. The domain specific examples 
used throughout will reinforce this focus. Although some of the 
functionalities described in these examples are presumably not 
available in real world tools (no specific products were referred 
to during the writing or illustration of this book), they are in- 
tended to represent realistic possibilities for interactive comput- 
ing in the present tense. 

Thirteen Categories of Envisioning Ideas 

The 100 envisioning ideas are broken into thirteen different 
categories that form chapters of sorts. While these chapters are 
suited to random access skimming, some readers may ben- 
efit from having first familiarized themselves with key ideas in 
categories A, B, and C, such as "Interrelations of operation, task, 
and activity scenarios" or "Intentional and articulated concep- 
tual models," if they are unfamiliar with these notions. 

The following brief descriptions of the thirteen idea categories 
conclude this introductory section: 

Category A, "Exploring work mediation and determining scope," 
contains nine ideas that can help product teams pursue useful 
understandings of knowledge work practice. These understand- 
ings can inform insightful models and design concepting, which 
can in turn illuminate where an application could provide appro- 
priate and desirable value in workers' experiences. The ideas in 
this category describe the potential importance of investigating 
workers' physical and socio-cultural environments; determin- 
ing tasks and larger activities that are conducive to mediation 
with computing tools; and supporting specialized needs related 
to emergent work, collaborative work, and individual, localized 
practices. 

Category B, "Defining interaction objects," contains ten ideas 
that can help product teams envision clear, understandable 
onscreen entities for knowledge workers to act on and with in 
order to accomplish their goals. The ideas in this category high- 
light the potential importance of interaction objects' definitions, 
identification, associations, states, flagged variability, owner- 
ship, relationships to specific interactions, and templates. 

Category C, "Establishing an application framework," contains 
ten ideas that can help product teams envision consistent, un- 
derstandable application concepts that envelope and organize 
various functionalities for mediating work. The ideas in this 
category highlight the importance of applications' conceptual 
models, interaction models, differing levels of interaction pat- 
terns, navigation pathways, identity tailored views, states, 
and other overarching, "structural" considerations. 


Category D, "Considering workers' attentions," contains seven 
ideas that can help product teams envision functionality 
concepts that effectively account for the strengths, limitations, 
expectations, and customs associated with workers' attentions. 
Teams can refer to this section when envisioning how their ap- 
plications might support users' desires to remain productively 
focused on their chosen vocations. The ideas in this category 
highlight the potential importance of tempos of work, expected 
effort, opportunity costs, distraction, engagement, resuming 
work, alerts functionality, the development of habit and auto- 
maticity, and other attentional considerations. 

Category E, "Providing opportunities to offload effort," contains 
six ideas that can help product teams to envision functionality 
concepts that could reduce unwanted knowledge work effort 
while at the same time keeping workers in the seat of control. 
The ideas in this category highlight the potential importance of 
offloading memory burdens; automating appropriate opera- 
tions, tasks, and activities; allowing workers to maintain an 
internal locus of control; and providing meaningful visibility into 
the internal workings of automation. 

Category F, "Enhancing information representation," contains 
eleven ideas that can help product teams envision how systems 
of tailored and interactive information representations could 
provide value in targeted knowledge work practices. The ideas 
in this category highlight the potential importance of represen- 
tational coordination, genre, novelty, relationships, transforma- 
tion, and interpretation aids, as well as some specific categories 
of information display. 

Category G, "Clarifying central interactions," contains seven 
ideas that can help product teams successfully envision key 
interaction scenarios while fleshing out sketches of their central 
functionality concepts. The ideas in this category highlight the 
potential importance of interactive narrative, clarity around 
levels of selection, specific instances of error management and 
workspace awareness, support for impromptu tangents, pre- 
sentation of relevant supporting information, and transitioning 
work outcomes from private to public view. 

Category H, "Supporting outcome exploration and cognitive 
tracing," contains four ideas that can help product teams envi- 
sion support for knowledge workers' scenario oriented explora- 
tion of potential outcomes, as well as historical review of appli- 
cation content. The ideas in this category highlight the potential 
importance of versioning, undo, action history for interaction 
objects or functional areas, and private, working annotations. 

Category I, "Working with volumes of information," contains 
seven ideas that can help product teams envision functionality 
concepts for managing and working with the masses of informa- 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


19 


tion that are generated by, and referenced throughout, knowl- 
edge work activities. The ideas in this category highlight the 
potential importance of flexible organizing methods; searching, 
filtering, and sorting application content; handling uncertain 
data sets; integrating information sources; providing messag- 
ing around content updates; and archiving unused yet valued 
information. 

Category J, "Facilitating communication," contains seven ideas 
that can help product teams envision appropriate support for 
both implicit and active communication in knowledge work 
practices. The ideas in this category highlight the potential 
importance of integrated communication actions, representa- 
tional common ground, work handoffs, authorship information, 
features to facilitate contact between workers, public annota- 
tion of interaction objects and functional areas, standardized 
genres of communications, and printing options that can fit 
workers' communication needs. 

Category K, "Promoting integration into work practice," con- 
tains 13 ideas that can help product teams envision application 
concepts that, beyond branded marketing claims, are intended 
to unfold as relevant and approachable tools for targeted tasks 
and larger activities. Teams can also use these ideas to envision 
extensibility that could allow targeted individuals and organi- 
zations to bind new tools to their existing computing systems 
and customs. The ideas in this category highlight the potential 
importance of application localization, introductory experiences, 
early attributions of usefulness, differing design approaches 
based on frequency of access, carefully considered user 
assistance, application interoperability and integration, end 
user programming, credibility of content and processes, and 
"at hand" application reliability. 

Category L, "Aiming for aesthetic user experiences," contains 
five ideas that can help product teams envision a more enjoy- 
able, appealing, domain appropriate, recognizable, and 
potentially unique directions for their applications' aesthetics. 
The ideas in this category highlight the potential importance of 
carefully designed knowledge work outputs, meeting or 
exceeding contemporary aesthetic standards, exploring small 
but iconic design resemblances to known domain artifacts, pur- 
suing clear illustration content and direct branding, and consid- 
ering iconoclastic aesthetics directions. 

Category M, "Planning connection with use," contains four ideas 
that can help product teams envision ways to anticipate, learn 
from, and support the real world use of their computing tools. 
The ideas in this category highlight the potential importance of 
having early and iterative conversations with targeted knowl- 
edge workers, supporting system champions that could advance 
product adoption, fostering and learning from application user 


communities, and considering the potential for unanticipated 
uses of technological options, long before their implementation 
has begun. 



FRONT MATTER 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


Primer on Example Knowledge Work Domains 


This section contains brief background descriptions of the three 
knowledge work domains used as examples throughout this 
book: architecture, clinical research, and financial trading. These 
example domains show the 100 envisioning ideas "in action" 
in specific contexts. By including three domains instead of one, 
each envisioning idea presents an opportunity to illustrate use- 
ful parallels and commonalities that can be drawn across very 
different types of work practice. 

The following background content is greatly simplified when 
compared to the complexity of real work in any one of these 
three fields. The same can be said for the related examples 
found throughout the 100 envisioning ideas themselves. 
Specialists in these professions will likely find this book's de- 
scriptions of their vocations to be lacking in important specifics. 
They are. Please note that these omissions are intentional. 

This text is a fast access reference to key ideas that can improve 
application envisioning of knowledge work tools, not a compre- 
hensive sourcebook for any one profession. 


Architecture 

Architects and their firms, generally speaking, seek to profit- 
ably create well designed drawings for buildings that address 
complex criteria. These criteria can be set by diverse stakehold- 
ers such as clients, civil engineers, government regulators, and 
the general public. Architects also set many criteria themselves, 
based on their training and their personal perspectives on 
what constitutes good design. To reach these aims, architects 
frequently transition between synthetic creativity and highly 
analytical problem solving. The process of arriving at agreed 
upon building designs, and carrying them forward through 
construction, can involve many different types of activities and 
work processes. For this and other reasons, teams of architects 
and consultants, rather than a single individual, are often 
responsible for the design of any given project. 



Visions of interactive applications in architectural practice began 
relatively early in the history of computing and continue to hold 
remarkable promise for future expansion (see the earlier men- 
tion of Douglas Englebart's landmark application concept on 
page 16). These technological possibilities have been tempered 
by the established professional cultures in many architecture 
firms, which have historically been relatively slow to adopt 
available computing tools. At the time of writing, for an impor- 
tant range of reasons that are likely to persist for some time, 
a considerable amount of architectural practice is still being 
accomplished outside of computing environments. 

During the intervals of a project where architecture firms do fre- 
quently turn to interactive applications, they may use a variety 
of products, including computer aided drafting (CAD) and other 
tools for exploring, visualizing, simulating, presenting, revising, 
detailing, and communicating design possibilities. While 


some of a firm's applications are usually tailored specifically for 
architectural practices, architects also employ standard produc- 
tivity tools and other general purpose products as part of their 
technological repertoires. 

The generations of architects working today have varying 
desires and expectations for their own use of interactive appli- 
cations. Some of the more experienced, senior architects have 
remained reticent about using computing in tasks that the 
majority of architects now exclusively accomplish on screen. 
These experienced professionals often focus on how computing 
tools can limit the expressiveness and clarity of architectural 
outputs, while at the same time adding a high degree of learn- 
ing, abstractness, and complexity to their own work practices. 
This reticence is in stark contrast to new practitioners in the 
field, who are expected to have a standard set of skills that 
includes effective operation of many of the latest computing 
tools. In between these two extremes are practitioners that 
are highly skilled at using "their" favored, proven products, and 
can make these chosen tools fit a wide variety of situations. 

At the time of writing, a subset of leading architecture studios 
has a strong interest in adopting new technologies to accom- 
plish their aims. Some even consider their use of advanced 
computing applications as one of their key differentiators in the 
marketplace. Many of the expressive, curvilinear, and asymmet- 
rical geometries found in contemporary architecture would be 
effectively impossible to resolve without the type of interactive 
explorations that are available within contemporary computing. 
Additionally, some cutting edge architects have become inter- 
ested in how certain tools can programmatically generate novel 
forms and based on iteratively defined rules and constraints. 

A key, recent development in the industry has been the intro- 
duction of Building Information Modeling (BIM), a term that 
encompasses an emerging class of computing applications that 
is beginning to drive radical changes in architectural practice. In 
BIM, the entire design of a building is stored as a collaborative 
virtual model that can be modified and referenced by different 
contributors to a project, purportedly improving communica- 
tion and reducing representational misunderstandings. Since 
BIM inherently presents many of the challenges that can occur 
when attempting to support collaborative work with interactive 
applications, a hypothetical "building modeling application" 
appears throughout the architectural examples included in the 
100 envisioning ideas. 


The fictional architect in this book's examples works at a 
medium sized, cutting edge studio with a robust computing 
infrastructure. She is still in the relatively early phases of her ca- 
reer, though she already has her eye set on becoming a partner 
some day or starting a similar practice elsewhere. At her level 
of seniority, she is a generalist, with responsibilities that range 
from client workshops to iteratively developing design and 
construction documents. She is part sketchbook dreamer, part 
diplomat, and part detail oriented workhorse. Her workplace 
goals include: 

Surpass, or at least meet, client expectations 

Create appealing, functional, high quality designs 

Incorporate compelling ideas and "good design" into 
building drawings 

Collaborate effectively to meet project budgets and 
timelines 

Contribute to award winning work that impresses 
partners in her firm 



Building Information Modeling / Application Concept 



FRONT MATTER | PRIMER ON EXAMPLE KNOWLEDGE WORK DOMAINS 


Clinical Research 


Clinical research scientists, generally speaking, want to make 
applied discoveries related to human health. These scientists 
adopt diverse methods and technologies to attack their research 
problems, depending on the nature of the topic under study 
and researchers' own areas of expertise. Different research 
questions and methodological approaches are often funded and 
staffed at different levels, though these levels can change drasti- 
cally when promising results appear. Ad hoc procedures can 
quickly become established protocols as a clinical lab's efforts 
progress from minimally staffed explorations to a larger, 
production workforce of experimentation. 



Life scientists, a larger category to which clinical researchers can 
be said to belong, were relatively early users of computing, and 
they have continued to drive some of the most exciting prog- 
ress in the application of interactive tools to knowledge work. 
Although time spent at the laboratory bench has remained a 
staple of many clinical research activities, extensive onscreen 
work has also become part of the essential character of these 
scientists' working lives. 



Lab Information Management / Application Concept 



Lab Data Analysis / Application Concept 


Clinical research labs differ in their adoption of specialized 
computing tools, based in large part on their budgets and the 
character of their research. Labs with limited computing infra- 
structure often focus on storing experimental data in a central 
repository and providing laboratory staff with typical productiv- 
ity applications, which they may then supplement with a variety 
open source tools. At the time of writing, clinical labs with more 
extensive computing infrastructure have the option to adopt 
technologies for nearly every stage of experimental workflow, 
ranging from sample preparation robotics and automated 
instrumentation, to specialized analysis software for data 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


21 


mining, to electronic laboratory notebooks for keeping track of 
experimental progress. To the uninitiated, stepping into a large, 
well funded lab can feel something like stepping into some fu- 
turistic version of an industrial production line, with many 
stations and the buzz of human and machine activity. 

Many clinical research labs study the genetic properties of 
samples in order to understand the presence or absence of 
characteristics that may be pertinent to their research prob- 
lems. Making confident conclusions in these types of studies can 
require a massive number of experiments, resulting in volumes 
of data that are difficult to manage outside of computing 
environments. 

The most frequently used application in many clinical labs is the 
Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). LIMS, at its 
most extensive, keeps track of all stored data about a labora- 
tory, from the stock on the shelves to the results of genetic 
tests. Many of these systems also provide functionality for 
defining and monitoring laboratory workflow, allowing scientists 
to design and distribute experimental protocols for lab techni- 
cians and automated instruments to follow. Since LIMS are often 
open to integration with other applications, they can become 
a central hub for connecting all of a laboratory's computing 
infrastructure. 

Applications for analyzing clinical data are an important class 
of technologies that may be connected to a LIMS. The analysis 
tools designed for the scientific market represent some of the 
most advanced examples of interactive applications currently 
available to knowledge workers. These tools can take seemingly 
countless pieces of laboratory data and present them in ways 
that allow scientists to understand trends, uncover anomalies, 
and make decisions. Robust visualization functionality can allow 
researchers to sift through experimental results from a variety 
of perspectives based on emergent wayfinding approaches. In 
clinical research areas where certain established analyses are 
often useful for understanding data, highly tailored functions 
can automate known, well characterized tests and present 
their results in clear and actionable information displays. 


The fictional scientist in this book's examples conducts clinical 
research, largely funded by government grants, on populations 
with a deadly hereditary disease. She has had many years of 
academic training and experience and is valued for her intel- 
ligence, depth of knowledge, insights, and personal drive. She 
has recently become the Principle Investigator of her own 
research lab, with responsibility over all of its clinical programs 
and personnel. Her new facility has extensive computing infra- 
structure, and she has been able to select LIMS and analysis 
applications that present the best available fit for her planned 
research approaches. Her workplace goals include: 

Make discoveries that lead to improvements in 
human health 

Design innovative studies and protocols 
Mentor students and staff 

Ensure that lab technicians have what they need to 
conduct experiments 

Analyze experimental data as thoroughly as possible 
Publish leading findings in reputable journals 
Manage lab resources wisely 



FRONT MATTER | PRIMER ON EXAMPLE KNOWLEDGE WORK DOMAINS 


Financial Trading 


The many specializations of financial trading are, generally 
speaking, about the exchange of financial instruments to maxi- 
mize returns for traders, their firms, and their clients. The teams 
that accomplish these goals are composed of distinct roles 
and established hierarchical structures that help ensure strict 
accountability. One important distinction in financial firms' per- 
sonnel is the pervasive separation between trading and "back 
office" groups. While traders make decisions about actions in 
their markets, the back office completes the detailed work that 
makes deals happen, such as billing, accounting, and any recon- 
ciliation of specifics that might be needed. 



The history of financial trading has strong ties to advanced 
applications of communication technologies. Traders are com- 
municative people, and ongoing relationships based on stable 
interchanges have traditionally been a necessity in order to 
secure favorable transactions in markets over time. The desire 
for the most current market information possible has driven 
successive generations of traders to rapidly adopt new technol- 
ogies. For example, one of the first applications of the telegraph 
was the transmission of market data, and in a similar vein, many 
financial organizations were relatively early adopters of 
communication via computer networks. 



Specialized Trading / Application Concept 



Computing automation and interactive applications have had 
profound impacts on professional practice in financial trading. 
Although contemporary traders may still be vocal participants 
in their markets, at the time of writing, many types of trading 
transactions are typically accomplished without any face to face 
or phone conversation. Instead of verbal interaction, communi- 
cation in these specialties now commonly involves the exchange 
of textual information on computer screens. These networked 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


22 


exchanges have created opportunities for trading automation 
based on predefined, quantitative rules set within and executed 
by computing tools. In situations where this sort of automation 
is used extensively, actual conversations outside of one's own 
firm may occur only in special cases, such as negotiations over 
large deals, or as an intentional means of building specific 
business relationships through personal connection. 

Real time market information feeds, as well as a wealth of 
online research functionality, have created the potential for 
information overload and excessive cognitive burdens in 
traders' work. Successful traders, having adapted to this 
potentially overwhelming context, become skilled at knowing 
when to invest time to research a transaction and when it is 
more beneficial to simply execute a deal based on immediately 
available information. These choices of time and attention are 
made, in part, based on the input and visible activities of other 
traders. Onscreen tools for supporting collaboration are often 
supplemented with shouts to colleagues across the room or via 
a global "squawk box" intercom system. 

While the use of computing is universal in modern financial 
organizations, individual firms have varying attitudes about 
providing new technologies to their workforces. Some firms 
conduct updates to their computing infrastructure in long, safe 
cycles, while others are continually attempting to improve the 
productivity of their staff by providing them industry leading 
applications. 

The main drivers for adopting new technologies into trading ac- 
tivities have been promised increases in efficiency and volume, 
reductions in errors, warehousing of useful data, and freeing 
workers from menial actions so that they can spend more time 
conducting "smarter" business. Financial firms often develop 
their own specialized computing tools internally, and when they 
purchase applications from niche product vendors, they may 
substantially customize them during their system integration 
processes. Outside of domain specific products, both traders 
and back office workers make extensive use of typical, off the 
shelf productivity applications and communications 
technologies. 


The fictional financial trader in this book's examples works in 
the flagship building of a leading global financial firm. His com- 
pany is known for making significant investments in comput- 
ing infrastructure for its highly sought after staff. He has been 
in financial services for a few years, but is still at a point in his 
career where he wants to stay focused on day to day trading. 

He is motivated by monetary rewards, but he also enjoys the 
responsibility, risk taking, rapid decision making, and intensive, 
moment to moment focus of market transactions. He is a highly 
social person, and is known by coworkers and other traders as 
a wit and conversationalist. His workplace goals include: 

Work fast and smart, making decisions quickly 

Exceed, or at least meet, financial targets 

Maintain business relationships and have good 
conversations 

Be honest and fair with counterparties while 
advancing organizational goals 

Keep current on relevant market news and trends 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A. Exploring Work Mediation 
and Determining Scope 


Valued computing tools can seemingly “fit” 
into certain parts of knowledge workers’ 
actions and thought processes, usefully 
meshing within the flows of their own goals. 

Designing for such a harmonious pairing 
requires critical exploration of potential 
interventions into targeted activities. 

During application envisioning, product 
teams can model and rationalize knowledge 
work from a variety of perspectives in order 
to understand how certain practices might 
be usefully mediated by their own onscreen 
applications. 

Teams can use these models to sketch 
divergent functionality concepts, eventually 
drafting an appropriate and desirable scope 
for their computing tool. 


Ideas about the potential roles that a product could play in knowledge work can arise 
in different ways. Product teams working within mature genres can build and innovate 
based on existing understandings. Teams seeking to create novel applications, whether 
tailored to a specific workplace or a larger market segment, can have more extensive, 
"from the ground up" questions to consider. In either situation, teams can intentionally 
reevaluate and flesh out their initial ideas about their product's contributions to 
workers' activities. 

Since so much of knowledge work is tacit and occurs inside workers minds, it can be 
difficult for product teams to gather the information that they need to create useful 
shared models of current work practice and its challenges. Direct observation in work 
environments and iterative, participatory modeling processes can help teams gain 
insights into what workers have difficulty remembering and articulating. 

Different approaches to modeling work practice can frame certain problem spaces in 
different ways. Teams can use these differing frames to identify areas for fruitful design 
concepting, such as needed "basics" for a computing tool, potential areas for 
improvement, and workers' unmet needs. 

This category contains 9 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Al. Influential physical and cultural environments 

A2. Workers' interrelations and relationships 

A3. Work practices appropriate for computer mediation 

A4. Standardization of work practice through mediation 

A5. Interrelations of operation, task, and activity scenarios 

A6. Open and emergent work scenarios 

A7. Collaboration scenarios and variations 

A8. Local practices and scenario variations 

A9. High value ratio for targeted work practices 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore how different understandings of know- 
ledge work practice can inform diverse application concepts and refined design strate- 
gies. Even when a product's initial charter targets a specific domain goal or activity, 
more expansive modeling and ideation can highlight opportunities for more systemic 
responses and valuable innovations. 

The central notion of this category applies to all of the application envisioning ideas, 
though it is most closely related to the "Defining interaction objects" (B), "Establishing 
an application framework" (C), "Promoting integration into work practice" (K), 
and "Planning connection with use" (M) categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A1 . Influential Physical and Cultural Environments 


The environments that knowledge workers practice within 
— which includes both their multidisciplinary organizations and 
the larger cultural context of their professions — can pose key 
challenges and opportunities for product teams as they attempt 
to outline appropriate and compelling design strategies. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader depends on many elements of his office environment to accom- 
plish his work. From the "yelling distance" proximity of key colleagues, to the avail- 
ability of specialized computing and communication tools, to the in house services 
that allow him to work late, he feels that his firm has done everything it can to 
support him as he strives to sit at his desk and focus on maximizing profits for 
his group (see illustration). 

A scientist organizes the spatial layout and bench assignments of her clinical lab to 
promote frequent, unplanned communication and the effective execution of struc- 
tured research work. There are few "offices," and most of the computing work- 
stations are placed on or near benches where technicians run experiments. 

An architect's desktop computer is situated in an open floor plan room dedicated to 
a single building project. The walls of the space are covered with large printouts of 
current work. She typically does not have to go very far to have an informal conver- 
sation with anyone on her project team — though she still finds the group to be 
too hierarchical. 

All knowledge work occurs in a physical and cultural environment, and successful 
individuals can be quite adept at making use of their situational contexts. While the 
conventional cubicle row remains a stereotyped landscape for knowledge work, many 
professions have specialized workplace schemes that have evolved throughout their 
history (C7, G4). Changing organizational structures and philosophies, in conjunction 
with the expansion of computer networks and other communication technologies (J), 
have created opportunities for some types of knowledge work to become geographi- 
cally distributed, "remote" or even "nomadic." 

Product teams can holistically model targeted settings in search of valuable insights that 
could be meaningfully reflected in their divergent application concepts. For example, 
knowledge workers' immediate cultures can exert powerful influences over the purpose 
and character of what they consider to be standard norms and customary practices. At 
a macro level, individual workers may also learn from and contribute to communities of 
practice that span multiple organizations and geographic locations (M3). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential influence of physical and 
cultural environment on their emerging ideas about work mediation and application 
scope, opportunities to clearly situate products within their eventual contexts can be 
lost. Applications that do not adequately reflect physical realities (Kl) and cultural set- 
tings (A2, C5, B7) can be more difficult for workers to learn (D2, D3, K2, K6) and may not 
be seen as useful 
or attractive options (K3). 



With a group of skilled people all sitting at the same big desk... 


SHARED ENVIRONMENT 




How could your team’s insights into the realities and 
constraints of targeted knowledge workers’ physical and 
cultural environments shape your application concepts? 

How might your computing tool meaningfully and valuably 
“fit” into these complex contexts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What size and variety of organizations might your team be targeting with your 
interactive application? How similar are these environments to each other? 

How could specific cultural characteristics of targeted workers' environments, such 
as shared norms, values, and customs, impact the strategic direction of your team's 
computing tool? 

How have these characteristics changed over time, and what directions are they 
trending in now? 

What breakdowns in work practice are currently caused or aggravated by 
environmental factors? Could these breakdowns represent potential 
opportunities for your product? 

How does the concentration or distribution of related physical spaces currently 
impact knowledge workers' practices? 

How do physical contexts shape workers' communicative, cooperative, and 
collaborative efforts? 

How are important work artifacts "located" within physical space and cultural 
zones? What understood norms surround their use in different environmental 
circumstances? 

What attitudes do targeted knowledge workers have regarding their own mobility? 
What activities do they expect to be able to accomplish at various locations? 

How might different models and understandings of these environmental factors 
allow your team to envision application concepts that could essentially "belong" 
in targeted contexts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B8, C4, F2, G7, K10, M 


And all of these technologies and applications available for immediate use... 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A2. Workers’ Interrelations and Relationships 


Social interactions in knowledge work activities often involve 
multiple categories of organizational roles and outside stake- 
holders. The cultural characteristics of knowledge workers’ 
social worlds can pose key challenges and opportunities for 
product teams as they attempt to outline appropriate and 
compelling design strategies. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect typically works with other architects on her team, project managers 
and partners within her studio, a variety of specialized external consultants, and her 
clients. As a broad generalist, she has different goals, expectations, and methods of 
working with each of these groups, and she wants to use computing tools that will 
not get in the way of these differing approaches (see illustration). 

A financial trader typically works with other traders, back office support, several 
levels of management, and many business contacts outside his firm. The technolo- 
gies and processes that his company has built up over time express underlying, top 
down — yet shared — norms and values about how these different groups should 
formally interact. 

A scientist typically works with other researchers in her clinical lab, the lab's tech- 
nicians, representatives from regulatory bodies, a number of vendors, principle 
investigators at other labs, and members of the scientific community at large. As 
the head of her lab, she wants to have some measure of control over all of its key 
internal and public interactions. 


The technologies that 
I use can either 
support or get in the 
way of how I want to 
connect with differ- 
ent people who play 
roles in our building 
projects... 


Architect 



ONSCREEN INTERACTIONS + 
COMMUNICATION 




How could your team’s insights into the connectivities and 
qualities of targeted knowledge workers’ relationships shape 
your application concepts? How might your computing tool 
usefully and meaningfully reflect these social realities? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How are workforces divided up in the organizations that your team might be 
targeting with your interactive application? 

What roles do different groups of knowledge workers play in the context of 
different activities? 

How do these groups of workers overlap and interrelate? How could your team 
characterize their goals and attributes based on observed relations in real world 
settings? 

Which social network ties and interpersonal interactions are the most important 
for successful work practice? 

Which ties do targeted workers enjoy and value? 

Which interactions are problematic? Could these breakdowns represent 
opportunities for your product? 

What directions are these interpersonal connections trending in? What changes 
in organizational relationships have occurred in the recent past? 


Knowledge work is often performed within complex social spheres that contain a range 
of overlapping cultural expectations (Al). As part of everyday work practice, successful 
individuals can become skilled at acting within, and making use of, certain interpersonal 
relationships. 

Product teams can model these relationships in search of valuable insights that could 
be meaningfully reflected in their divergent application concepts. Conventional profes- 
sional practices, along with understood workflow and power structures within organiza- 
tions, may dictate how different actors work together to accomplish certain outcomes 
(A4, C6). Additionally, local ways of working may arise organically from a shared ground- 
ing of implicit norms and customs, which can be reflected in divisions of labor (A7, A8) 
and resulting artifacts (B). 

When product teams do not actively consider how the specifics of workers' social 
worlds might impact their emerging ideas about work mediation and application scope, 
opportunities to clearly situate a product in the context of these interpersonal networks 
can be lost. Applications that do not allow expected social interactions or reflect ex- 
pected power relationships (A2, C5, B7) can be more difficult for workers to learn (D2, 
K2, K6) and may not be seen as useful or attractive options (D3, K3). These products 
may also not adequately support important cooperative or collaborative work practices 
(C7, G4) such as handoffs (G7, J3) and other forms of communication (J). 



What overriding management attitudes about workers' interrelations could 
influence the success of your computing tool? 

How might different models and understandings of these social factors allow your 
team to envision application concepts that could improve valued interpersonal 
interactions for all involved? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B8, C8, M 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A3. Work Practices Appropriate for Computer Mediation 


Interactive applications can provide knowledge workers and 
their organizations more value in some activity scenarios 
than in others. To drive an appropriate and compelling 
application scope, product teams can balance the desire to 
usefully facilitate targeted workers’ goals and practices with 
contemporary limitations of the computing medium. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist tests a variety of novel techniques to ensure that her laboratory is taking 
advantage of the latest clinical research methods. While she uses certain function- 
alities in her lab's onscreen applications to perform these tests, she does not expect 
these computing tools to support such open explorations to the same degree that 
they support high volume, standardized experiments (see illustration). 

A financial trader spends most of his day using interactive applications to accom- 
plish predictable tasks. Since he knows that these tools can make important transac- 
tions somewhat impersonal, he often spends part of his day strengthening business 
relationships through informal phone and face to face chats. 

An architect begins her projects with free form sketching of potential shapes and 
ideas. She will not use her building modeling application, which emphasizes 
exacting details, to perform this very fluid early work. 

For a variety of reasons, not all knowledge work practices are well suited to being medi- 
ated by an interactive application. Workers may value their current, offline methods of 
accomplishing certain tasks or larger activities (A5) to an extent that they do and not 
want to change their proven customs. Even when people are open to certain changes, 
the limitations of contemporary computing may prove too constraining for some types 
of thinking work (Dl). For example, conventional computing tools inherently stan- 
dardize activities in ways that can restrict exploration (A4), and they typically support 
collaboration by offering highly individualistic actions within cooperative environments 
(C7, G4). 


Not every part of our 
lab's scientific 
workflow should be 
supported by 
software designed 
specifically for it... 



It's true that our lab's information management 
and analysis applications are always something we 
turn to when we are doing "production" work... 



Where in your team’s big picture characterizations of knowledge 
workers’ activities do you see potential value and possibility for 
useful and meaningful mediation by a computing tool? From a 
vantage point that emphasizes targeted workers’ mental efforts, 
where is there less potential value and possibility? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What portions of their work practices do targeted individuals and organizations not 
want to move onscreen? What portions would they like to have supported by an 
interactive application? Why? 

How might contemporary computing be too closed, individualistic, and constraining 
for the knowledge work that your team is targeting? 

Which work practices do not inherently lend themselves to being mediated by a 
near term computing tool? 

Which work practices could be ripe for onscreen support, facilitation, and 
enhancement? 

What larger trends and advanced analogies in technology adoption could valuably 
inform your team's decision making about which activities to target? 

Are there any opportunities for your application concepts to support small portions 
of otherwise "off screen" work, rather than larger expanses of work practice? 

How might your team model and use these understandings to envision functionality 
concepts, potential application scopes, and larger strategic directions for your 
product? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


With knowledge workers' preferences and the limitations of current technologies in 
mind, product teams can carefully target activities where their application could desir- 
ably and feasibly provide value. Since workers may briefly use computing tools even 
in "intentionally offline" activities, teams can also respectfully envision more fleeting 
touchpoints (G5). These brief points of connection can sometimes serve as valuable 
opportunities to support smaller goals with tailored functionality, such as the ability 
to inform a decision by searching for related information (B8, 15). 

When product teams do not actively consider whether targeted work practices are 
appropriate and conducive for onscreen interaction, resulting applications may contain 
extensive functionalities that are not particularly appreciated by knowledge workers. 
These products may be difficult to learn and "clumsy" in action (D2, K2, K6, K13). When 
organizations make such tools a standard part of their processes, workers may resent 
these technologies and limit their own use of them (D3, K12). 


How does this method work? 
How might we use it in a study? 


Activities understood as being 
too variable to be a functionality 
focus in primary software tools 


How can we execute on this study 
plan? What findings are in its data? 


Interactions that scientists expect 
to be a functionality focus in 
their primary software tools 


Transition to use in a clinical study t> 


But I don't expect those tools to support our leading edge, exploratory work. 


See also: A, C6, D4, E5, Ml, M4 


When we are trying out new things, we often turn to more generalized tools, 
write our own rough code, or use scientific software in unintended ways... 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A4. Standardization of Work Practice through Mediation 


When interactive applications introduce new possibilities in 
support of knowledge work practices, they often also introduce 
new levels of standardization. Product team can envision 
appropriate levels of freedom and constraint in their application 
concepts, which can range from a slight narrowing of available 
choices to the restrictive organization of entire activities. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader used to communicate about certain topics through a variety of 
different channels, but now he frequently uses his new trading application instead 
of reaching for other options. It has functionality that allows him to quickly send 
targeted messages to relevant parties, and he likes the idea of his group standard- 
izing their approach to communication (see illustration). 

An architect used to have different approaches to adding construction notes to 
different types and scales of drawings. When her studio made the switch to using a 
building modeling application, which has very different implications and opportuni- 
ties for these notes, she worked to inform and educate external colleagues about a 
new set of notation standards. 

A scientist sets up procedures for her lab technicians to follow. While these proce- 
dures have always been consistent, the introduction of her lab's new information 
management application has facilitated new levels of useful standardization that 
had previously been too difficult to achieve. 

Interactive applications inherently contain some standardizing constraints. For example, 
data attributes may have a predefined list of valid options, and navigation pathways 
between functional areas may be strung together in meaningfully predetermined ways 
(C4). Some designs for computing tools are more directive than others, and channeling 
constraints can have different levels of mutability, ranging from somewhat flexible to 
highly fixed (K6). 

Product teams can sketch standardizing constraints that are useful and well suited 
to targeted tasks and larger activities. Depending on standardization goals, a routine 
knowledge work procedure could be supported with a set of random access tools in an 
open application workspace (A6, G2), an entirely fixed interactive workflow (C6, D4), 
or even an automated procedure (E3, E4). When incoming requests for standardization 
are inconsistent (A2, A7, A8), teams can map consistencies and variabilities in order to 
envision default approaches, along with methods of customizing those defaults to meet 
local practices and individual needs (C8, Dl). However, sometimes effective standards 
simply cannot be defined. 

When product teams do not actively consider how implicit or explicit standardiza- 
tion might impact their emerging ideas about work mediation and application scope, 
opportunities to provide valuable inflexibilities can be lost. When applications contain 
inappropriate standardization, they can create frustrating and unpersuasive limitations 
on action, potentially leading to difficulties in adoption (K) and excessively effortful 
workarounds (D2, D3). 

See also: A, B5, E, F, Gl, J6, L2, Ml, M4 


Communication is 
what trading is about, 
and our group tries to 
keep our interactions 
with the outside world 
as consistent as 
possible... 


Financial 

Trader 



For example, we use an 
automatic form to rapidly 
email clear and legible 
trade cancellations... 


□ □ i i r 

□ □ □ □ □ □ □ 


□ □ 


■ ■■ 

Cancellation Notice 


Which is very different from how we used to tell 
our trading partners about cancelled deals... 



Where in your team’s big picture characterizations of knowledge 
workers’ activities could inherent standardization be valuable in 
a supporting computing tool? Where might targeted individuals 
and organizations view standardization as restrictive and 
problematic? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which standardizations of work practice do targeted individuals and organizations 
currently value? Why? 

Where have they intentionally avoided standardization? Where do they disagree 
on the topic? 

What value does standardization provide in current practices? 

Who defined current standardizations? How were they introduced? 

Which areas of work practice are trending toward more standardization? 

Which are trending toward less? 

How are agreed upon work practices formalized into structured work processes 
within targeted organizations? What might your team learn from these transitions? 

Where could conflicting standardization requests make it difficult to define useful 
onscreen support? At what point are requests too diverse for a single computing 
tool to be effective for a majority of users? 

What advanced analogies about standardizations in other fields could valuably 
inform your team's strategic ideation? 

How might your sketched functionality concepts maintain or expand upon existing, 
useful standardizations? 

What operations, tasks, or even entire activities that your team is considering 
for your product's scope will likely require further standardization in order to be 
supported effectively? 

Which parts of your sketched application concepts could imply further 
standardization by design? Could these constraints be a hindrance or will they 
meaningfully direct interaction and work outcomes? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


Everyone in our group did it differently, which was confusing 
and eventually drove us to create a useful standard... 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A5. Interrelations of Operation, Task, and Activity Scenarios 


Knowledge workers’ granular actions can be categorized as 
operations, which overlap and interrelate into larger tasks, 
which themselves overlap and interrelate into the larger unit 
of activities. Explicit models of these multi-tiered relationships 
can help product teams envision interactive applications that 
are much more than haphazard collections of unconnected, 
discrete functions. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect performs many small operations in her building modeling application, 
progressively completing separate tasks that incrementally advance the project. 
These individual advancements, in conjunction with her colleagues' contributions 
to the same model, result in a series of iterations, which eventually result in a 
complete and approved design (see illustration). 


It's amazing to think 
of all of the different 
steps that I take in a 
day, many of which 
touch my building 
modeling software in 
one way or another... 



From a vantage point that emphasizes knowledge workers’ 
mental efforts, how might your team break down your big 
picture characterizations of targeted workers’ practices into a 
useful and meaningful hierarchy of activity, task, and low level 
operation elements? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which operations are so discrete that they probably do not need to be included in 
your envisioning process? How much detail is too much detail when thinking about 
a foundational model that your team can use to sketch potential design strategies 
and application concepts? 

What user goals and other attributes might your team capture for each operation, 
task, and larger activity in your emerging rationalizations of knowledge work? 


A financial trader performs a number of steps while completing every trade. These 
individual trades contribute to his larger goal of advancing the profitability of his 
firm by maximizing the value of his own transactions. 

A scientist analyzes the clinical data generated by her lab technicians after each 
round of their experiments. These individual analyses accumulate into a study's 
findings, which then lead to further studies, in a chain of research that contributes 
to the accumulated knowledge of her clinical field. 

In the process of rationalizing knowledge work for system design, product teams 
inevitably break down larger work practices into smaller pieces. They may characterize 
segments of work by inputs and outputs, the actors involved (A2), related goals, and 
many other factors (J3). While this deconstructive approach can be a key method for 
developing meaningful understandings of workers' behaviors, it runs the risk of sever- 
ing inherent linkages that can be essential for effective envisioning of useful and usable 
computing tools (C4, Gl). 

Product teams can connect characterized units into networks and tiered hierarchies 
that reflect workers' current and desired practices. They can recognize that when they 
envision a specific activity as part of their application's scope (A3, A9), they are going 
to have to support at least some of its related tasks and operations. Teams can discover 
that these linkages between units may not be exclusive, so that, for example, the same 
task can be tied to two different activities, with slight variations based on differences in 
context (A7, A8). They may also see that the interrelations inherent in work practices 
could suggest, for example, a basis for automated functionality (E3, E4) or connectivity 
with other technologies (B8, K8, K9, K10). 

When product teams do not actively consider how the interrelated nature of workers' 
practices might impact their emerging ideas about work mediation and application 
scope, opportunities to envision clearly defined, easily navigable, and functionally 
appropriate products can be lost (Cl, C2). Considering these interrelations can be 
particularly important when teams are creating novel tools that do not have core, 
established conventions to fall back on (F2, L2). 


In the interval of 
this one activity, 
there are several 
tasks, which are 
themselves 
comprised of 
many separate 
operations 


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How should the discrete, individual elements within your team's models of current 
and desired work practices overlap, nest, and interrelate? 

Could individual operations map to more than one task, or are they strictly 
hierarchical? 

Could individual tasks map to several different activities? 

Could individual activities map to other, larger activities? 

How might the mapping of an individual work element to multiple situations change 
how it is practiced under different circumstances? Where could variations based on 
these mappings be drastic enough to call them out as different practices? 

How might different scenario flows through your team's rationalized maps of work 
practice drive different requirements for functionality concepts? 

Which threads and mappings in your models could be essential for envisioning your 
application's conceptual model, interaction model, and pathways for goal directed 
wayfinding? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B4, B5, C6, FI, G5, K, Ml, M4 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A6. Open and Emergent Work Scenarios 


Some knowledge work tasks and larger activities involve 
solving complex, undefined problems where workers’ goals 
and methods evolve within unfolding pathways of effort. 
These emergent scenarios can be supported by interactive 
applications that present useful flexibilities, which product 
teams can envision as largely unsequenced but interrelated 
patterns of mediated work. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 


When I'm visualizing 
our data in my analysis 
tool, my goals can 
change at any time, 
depending on what I 
happen to discover... 



What areas of your team’s emerging models of work practice 
are accomplished through open and emergent pathways of 
knowledge work rather than strict, process oriented action? 
From a vantage point that emphasizes targeted workers’ mental 
efforts, how much functional flexibility could be required to 
valuably support these cases? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 


A scientist's use of her analysis application is highly contingent on what trends she 
discovers in her lab's clinical results. Within the tool's data visualization functional- 
ities, her goals can change drastically based on the patterns that appear after each 
visual transformation that she explores (see illustration). 

An architect is working in her building modeling application on a floor plan for a 
hospital's critical care ward. She tries out a number of different rough layouts that 
could meet the project's requirements, evolving her own criteria for a successful 
solution as she explores different ideas. 

A financial trader's work is primarily composed of frequent, brief, discrete, and 
habitual actions. However, some parts of his work are often not so routine, such as 
conversations about problematic trades or large potential deals, both of which can 
follow irregular processes and require unpredictable amounts of time. 

Some types of knowledge work are practiced without step by step procedures or even 
high level road maps. Workers may begin these practices with clear goals in mind, but 
their intentions can evolve as outcomes unfold through a progression of actions. To suc- 
cessfully accomplish these scenarios, individuals can become highly skilled at recogniz- 
ing patterns, situationally turning to supplemental resources and tools (G5, K8, K9), 
making meaning, testing hypotheses (F8, F9, 12, 13), revising their expectations 
and understandings, and defining success (LI). 

The variations that stem from open and emergent ways of working can be difficult 
for product teams to appropriately capture in their shared, rationalized models (A7, 

A8). In some cases, a single model of these work practices can cover a critical mass of 
important variations. In many other cases, teams may benefit from creating models 
that represent a "cloud" of potential scenarios — an interrelated network of largely 
unsequenced patterns of action. 

When product teams do not actively consider how open and emergent scenarios might 
impact their developing ideas about work mediation and application scope, resulting 
products may lack necessary flexibilities (A9). In the name of standardization (A4), prod- 
uct teams may crystallize processes based on inadequate understandings of complex 
realities (B8, C8), resulting in applications that can be difficult for workers to adopt and 
use (D2, D3, Gl, K). At their worst, these hindrances to open and emergent work can 
be evidenced in the overall framework of a computing tool (Cl, C2), which can be an 
excessively difficult issue to correct in implemented products. 

See also: A, B4, G6, H, 15, K3, K6, Kll, Ml, M4 



Clinical 

Scientist 


Though I'm generally switching between some 
fairly standard types of goals... 


GOAL TYPE 1 GOAL TYPE 2 GOAL TYPE 3 GOAL TYPE 4 



QC 

o 


l/l 

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Li- 

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OC 

3 

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What tasks or larger activities, within the scope of work that your team is 
investigating, take shape through the improvisational structure of workers' 
practices? 

What do targeted workers accomplish in these open and emergent scenarios 
and variations? 

What are the initiating goals in each of these cases? How can those goals evolve 
through different series of actions? 

Is the knowledge work domain that your team is targeting trending toward more 
improvisation or toward further specialization of defined processes and roles? 

How do targeted individuals and their organizations view the importance of open 
and emergent practices? Do they wish they were more standardized? Do they 
value their openness? 

What situations in these improvisational scenarios trigger workers to make 
decisions about subsequent approaches and actions? 

What are the most important points of flexibility for your team to consider when 
attempting to support these work practices? 

What other patterns and regularities can your team find in these "clouds" of 
potential scenarios? How might you use these insights to ideate useful and 
meaningful functionality concepts? 

How could support for these practices impact the overall scope and frameworks 
of your application concepts? 

How far might your team push certain flexibilities for open and emergent practices 
before the interaction clarity of your sketched computing tools begins to 
break down? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A7. Collaboration Scenarios and Variations 


Even apparently individualistic knowledge work practices can 
have key collaborative, or at least cooperative, scenarios and 
variations. By actively envisioning how these cases might be 
supported by an interactive application, product teams can 
avoid common and disruptive pitfalls in their approaches 
to mediating work. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect frequently reviews her project work with one or more colleagues in 
her firm, either formally or informally. While this used to typically occur face to face, 
writing on paper printouts, her company's new building modeling application now 
allows her to meet online with team members from different global offices in 
a shared, highly visual workspace (see illustration). 

A financial trader sometimes shares the details of important pending deals with 
other traders in his group. Their firm's trading application allows him to save draft 
proposals of large, complex deals to a shared location where his colleagues can 
access and work on them. 

A scientist sets up her clinical research lab's information management application 
in a way that allows certain lab technicians to "own" certain tasks. She makes an 
exception for quality checking procedures, which will require the input of two 
separate lab techs. 

Collaboration in knowledge work can range from asking quick questions to spending 
long hours actively working with colleagues, either in person or at a distance (Al). 
People may recognize some tasks or larger activities as explicitly collaborative, whether 
that collaboration takes place in real time or asynchronously (FI, J2). Even in areas of 
work practice where individuals do not feel that they are directly collaborating, they are 
often cooperatively completing their own parts of a larger process while sharing certain 
elements of their organizational contexts (C5, G7, J3, J4). 

Variations that stem from collaborative ways of working can be difficult for product 
teams to meaningfully rationalize (A4, A6, A7, A8). In some cases, a single model of 
how a product could mediate knowledge work can cover a critical mass of important 
variants. In many other cases, teams may benefit from creating multiple models of 
the same area of work practice in order to usefully and appropriately describe specific 
instances of collaborative, or at least cooperative, action. 

When product teams do not actively consider how the collaborative aspects of knowl- 
edge work might impact their emerging ideas about work mediation and application 
scope, resulting products may not be adopted by individuals and organizations that 
place a high value on shared, convivial work (K). Applications' frameworks (Cl, C2) may 
mistakenly emphasize individualistic directives over cooperative interactions, inhibiting 
both the distribution of effort and meaningful visibility into others' actions (C7, G4). 
Such frameworks can also contribute to the likelihood of human error (C9, G3) and 
drive workers to perform excessively effortful work arounds (D2, D3, D4). 

See also: A, B5, B6, B7, B8, H2, H3, Jl, J5, Ml 



And it looks like the 
people from our team 
that I invited have 
joined the online 
workspace, and they 
are looking at the 
building's details... 




Distant Collaborators 


It's not as good as meeting face to face in front of some big 
printouts or the same screen, but I look forward to gathering 
these experienced architects' feedback on our current choices... 


30 


What areas in your team’s emerging models of knowledge 
work practice can involve collaborative, or at least cooperative, 
action? How might attempting to mediate these complex 
practices impact the functional forms and overarching 
strategic directions of your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What tasks or larger activities, within the scope of work practice that your team 
is investigating, are inherently collaborative? 

What parts of knowledge work that could otherwise be considered individualistic 
have collaborative or cooperative variations? 

What do targeted workers accomplish in these scenarios and variations? 

What are their goals in each of these cases? 

What breakdowns in work practice are currently caused or aggravated by 
cooperative and collaborative interactions? Could these problems represent 
potential opportunities for your team's product? 

Is the knowledge work domain that you are targeting trending toward more 
collaboration or toward further specialization of defined processes and roles? 

How do targeted individuals and their organizations view the importance of 
collaborative practices? Do they wish they were more individualistic? More 
collaborative? 

What specific aspects and effects of collaboration do workers perceive as valuable? 
Which are inherently important for successful outcomes? 

What other patterns and regularities might your team find in shared, convivial 
practices? How might you use these insights to ideate useful and meaningful 
functionality concepts? 

How could support for these practices impact the overall scope and frameworks 
of your application concepts? 

How far might your team push certain flexibilities for collaborative scenarios and 
variations before the interaction clarity of your sketched computing tools begins 
to break down? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A8. Local Practices and Scenario Variations 


Knowledge workers may continually refine their approaches 
to certain tasks and larger activities in order to meet their 
local needs, performing adaptive variations based on 
recognized contingencies. Product teams can envision how 
diverse yet essential variations in workers’ practices might 
be supported by thoughtful flexibilities in their application 
concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader has worked at three different firms in the last five years, using the 
same trading application in each organization. Although each firm had slightly dif- 
ferent ways of accomplishing the same goals, the trading tool consistently displayed 
the right kinds of flexibility to be effective in each environment (see illustration). 

A scientist's use of her analysis applications depends on the purpose and methods 
of the particular clinical studies that her lab is currently conducting. However, look- 
ing across the different types of studies that her lab has recently pursued, she thinks 
that she typically performs different "flavors" of the same essential analyses. 

An architect meets with her team at the end of every project to discuss potential 
process improvements. Looking back across two years, she sees that her studio's 
detailed approaches to working have evolved more than she had realized. 

Examining knowledge work across a number of organizations, there can be can be 
major variations in how different individuals and groups accomplish the same types of 
work practice (Al). Even organizations operating in highly similar fields can have very 
different goals, established processes, observed methods, and barriers to success. 
Within a given workplace, people may have developed several different ways to 
accomplish certain goals based on recognizable cases. 

Branches that stem from local and variable approaches to work can be difficult for 
product teams to meaningfully distill into shared, rationalized models (A4, A7). In some 
cases, a single model of how a product could mediate knowledge work can cover a criti- 
cal mass of important variations. In many other cases, teams may benefit from creating 
multiple models in order to usefully and appropriately describe important categories 
and families of related scenarios. 

When product teams do not actively consider how local practices and scenario varia- 
tions might impact their emerging ideas about work mediation and application scope, 
resulting products may lack needed flexibilities for some locales. When presented with 
applications that do not adequately reflect their current practices (K3), knowledge 
workers may not want to change their well known ways of working in order to make 
use of new tools (D2, D3, K). Even when a product's implied changes are desirable, 
some established, "home grown" approaches may be exceedingly difficult to update. 

Conversely, too much emphasis on supporting diversity in work practices may lead to 
unnecessary flexibility that can reduce learnability (K2, K6) and interaction clarity (Gl) 
for more critical, common, and frequent scenarios (A9). 


This trading tool is 
remarkably adaptable. 
I think that the people 
that designed it really 
know the small but 
important differences 
in how people trade... 


Financial 

Trader 



All of the firms that I've worked at have been able to successfully 
work with the same software in their own slightly different ways... 


PREVIOUS FIRM 



At my last job, there was a 
general emphasis on allowing 
us traders to do things our 
own way, which gave us just 
enough rope to hang ourselves... 

But when it came to negotiating, 
they had specific processes that 
they wanted us to follow... 


CURRENT FIRM 



o 



At my current firm, they 
have thought a lot about 
where standard processes 
could be valuable and 
provided good tools to help 
us get to those standards... 

But in negotiation, they give 
us a lot of freedom... 


How might your team’s emerging models of knowledge work 
practice call out key local variabilities between and within 
targeted organizations? Where in your mapped understandings 
could different scenarios for accomplishing the same goal be 
important? How might those differences impact the overarching 
functional forms and strategic directions of your application 
concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What tasks or larger activities, within the scope of work practice that your team is 
investigating, are performed differently in different locales and situations? 

What variabilities stem mainly from local differences in practices, as seen when 
looking across targeted organizations? 

How do common differences in workers' personal behaviors and preferences 
create categorical variations in work practice? What circumstantial cases can drive 
important differences in workers' approaches to accomplishing a goal? What can 
cause these divergent branches from a "normal" practice? 

How do targeted individuals and organizations view the importance of their own 
ways of accomplishing work? Are they aware of other ways of doing things? 

Are the variabilities that your team has identified trending toward more 
consolidation or further division? 

Which variations could be thought of as critical or frequent enough to model as 
separate but related work practices? Which local practices are uncommon? 

Which are frequent or seen as critical by targeted workers? 

Which variations do people value just as much as the "normal" flows of their own 
work practices? Nearly as much as? 

What practices might individuals and organizations be open to changing in order 
to make use of a valuable new product? What offerings could provide that level 
of value? 

What other patterns and priorities could your team identify in these variations 
on workers' practices? How might you use these insights to ideate useful and 
meaningful functionality concepts? 

Are local practices and scenarios variations so heterogeneous and diverse as 
to make a single application solution difficult to envision? 

How could support for these practices impact the overall scope and framework 
of your team's application concepts? 

How far might your team push flexibility for local practices before the interaction 
clarity of your sketched computing tools begins to break down? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B, C8, E, FI, F2, II, M 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | A. EXPLORING WORK MEDIATION AND DETERMINING SCOPE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


A9. High Value Ratio for Targeted Work Practices 


Not all of a product team’s sketched functionality concepts have 
the same potential to provide compelling utility in knowledge 
work. To promote usefulness and cohesive design strategies 
in their application concepts, teams can parsimoniously 
target certain work practices by including related, high value 
functionalities and downplaying or eliminating unrelated, 
lower priority options. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist had previously analyzed her lab's clinical data by using small portions 
of several different applications. Her new analysis application contains all of those 
useful functionalities in a single product, while "cutting the fat" of options that 
researchers like her never use (see illustration). 

A financial trader wants developers of a new trading application to focus on the 
core tasks that he repeats throughout his work day. While there are a lot of other 
features he would "like" to have, he does not want any of them added to the new 
tool if their inclusion would take away from exciting and appropriate support for 
the core of his trading work. 

An architect uses different functionality in her building modeling application at 
different intervals of a building project's life span. While she feels that she has 
used a majority of the tool's available options at one point or another, during 
any one interval of a project she uses only a concentrated subset of its features. 

Every interactive application has a limited scope and is intended for use in a certain 
range of circumstances (A). Similarly, each application concept that a product team en- 
visions reflects a set of design priorities that can be compared with and situated within 
larger spaces of possibility. Inevitably, functionality concepts that support a subset of 
tasks and larger activities become more substantially developed, while other concepts 
wither or disappear (A3, A5). 

To arrive at an appropriate functional scope and refined design strategy, product teams 
must have a clear understanding of the goals, pain points, unmet needs, and measures 
of success that are prevalent in their targeted markets. In knowledge work domains 
with extensive, highly enmeshed, and frequently practiced groupings of tasks, appro- 
priate application concepts may become relatively large and complex (C4). Conversely, 
appropriate concepts for narrowly targeted, infrequent roles in work practice can often 
benefit from a reductive simplicity (E3, E4) that promotes directive learnability and 
interaction efficiency (A4, K2, K6). 

When product teams do not actively consider how a computing tool's potential options 
could provide differential value in mediated work practice, resulting products may suf- 
fer from an overabundance of features, a condition that Donald Norman has termed 
"featuritis." This overabundance may be caused by teams directly translating workers' 
requests into functional requirements. A lack of clear priorities can also lead teams to 
under develop critical functionality, potentially resulting in products that are seen as 
unattractive (K3) and difficult for workers to adopt and use (D2, D3, Gl, K). 


So many scientific 
applications are huge 
and generic, filled 
with bloat, or small 
and focused but 
missing so much of 
what our lab needs 
for our own research 
goals... 



PREVIOUS USE OF SEVERAL 
ANALYSIS APPLICATIONS 

Most of the functionality in each 
of several applications was left 
unused by the laboratory team. 


CURRENT USE OF SINGLE 
ANALYSIS APPLICATION 

Main analysis application 
contains few options that the 
laboratory team does not use. 



For example, it used to be that we 
would have to simultaneously use 
bits and pieces from different 
analysis applications in order to 
accomplish what we wanted... 


And then we found our 
new analysis tool, which is 
designed for our type of 
research, and meets I'd say 
90 percent of our needs... 


32 


Which areas of knowledge work practice might your team 
want to target with your product? From a vantage point that 
emphasizes workers’ mental efforts, which selective assembly 
from among your sketched functionality concepts could provide 
compelling value in targeted work, while at the same time 
coalescing into a sensible application concept that embodies 
a well resolved design strategy? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which specific operations, tasks, and larger activities will your team target with 
your computing tool? 

Which elements in your mapped understandings of work practice will you 
intentionally exclude from your application concepts? 

Which of your sketched functionality concepts emerge as the essential, valuable, 
and desirable "core" that could support these targeted practices? What design 
strategies could that aggregation imply? 

Which of your team's functionality concepts could be prioritized as secondary? 

As tertiary? As potentially unnecessary? 

Which of your envisioned directions for your computing tool map to one or more 
established product genres in your targeted markets? 

If your envisioned product is not representative of a known genre, will workers 
perceive its key offerings as interrelated and cohesive given the context of their 
own practices? 

What analogies might your team draw from established product genres in other, 
seemingly unrelated markets? 

What are the overarching stories of your team's emerging application concepts? 
What could these narratives mean for your product's evolving brand and 
positioning in the market? 

What functionalities do competing products provide that workers may expect from 
your team's interactive application? 

What larger product marketing, technology, and design trends could influence your 
team's ideas about application scope? 

Where could reductions in functional scope drive desirable simplicity in your 
application concepts? 

How might ideas about product scope inform your team's envisioning of an 
appropriate application framework, learnability requirements, and other key 
design considerations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: Bl, Cl, C2, K10, L, Ml, M4 










100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS 


IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B. Defining Interaction Objects 


Valued computing tools can present clearly 
articulated and understandable collections of 
onscreen objects that knowledge workers 
can act upon, with, and through. 

Designing such clarity requires deliberate 
mapping and careful simplification. 

During application envisioning, product 
teams can sketch and explore the interaction 
objects that users might encounter in different 
scenarios of mediated work. 

By taking time to generate diverse ideas 
about users’ potential experiences of 
onscreen entities, teams can codify essential 
characteristics, behaviors, and relationships. 


Within a product team's emerging concepts for mediating knowledge work, there are 
both actions and implied or explicit recipients of those actions. In some cases, the re- 
cipient of an action may be an onscreen tool that workers can act either on or through. 
When product teams do not thoughtfully frame and flesh out these primary onscreen 
objects, resulting applications may present workers with inconsistent, unfamiliar, and 
confusing data structures that feel as if they must be learned "from the ground up." 

Legible interaction objects can leverage workers' existing expertise by directly referenc- 
ing specific artifacts that are currently found in their work practices. By drawing mean- 
ingful connections to known constructs and material culture, applications can 
trigger useful expectations in workers that may help them to understand what can be 
done to and with corresponding onscreen items. 

There are a number of specific issues that may arise when work practice transitions 
from dealing with material artifacts to dealing with intangible interaction objects. Many 
of these issues can be the result of reducing or eliminating important cues that workers 
normally read from artifacts' physical placements and visible forms. To actively ad- 
dress these potential problems, product teams can design key cues back into onscreen 
objects based on careful consideration of usage scenarios. 

This category contains 10 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Bl. Named objects and information structures 
B2. Flexible identification of object instances 
B3. Coupling of application and real world objects 
B4. Object associations and user defined objects 
B5. Object states and activity flow visibility 
B6. Flagged variability within or between objects 
B7. Object ownership and availability rules 
B8. Explicit mapping of objects to work mediation 
B9. Common management actions for objects 
B10. Object templates 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore knowledge worker's potential experi- 
ences of the interaction objects in their application concepts. Given the inherent 
abstraction of computing environments and the limited space of workers' screens, early 
ideation on this topic can promote the development of conceptually clear, consistent, 
and actionable focal points within computing tools. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A), "Establishing an application framework" (C), "Enhanc- 
ing information representation" (F), and "Working with volumes of information" (I) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B1. Named Objects and Information Structures 


Knowledge work applications can support specific work 
practices with named interaction objects that are equivalents 
of familiar workplace artifacts. In addition to incorporating 
existing domain ideas and entities, product teams may need to 
introduce new objects into workers’ vocabularies and practices 
in order to meaningfully enable certain functionality concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist sets up a new clinical research study in her lab's information manage- 
ment application. She creates a study file, a revised lab automation procedure, 
and onscreen instantiations for several clinical samples and test tubes that are 
physically present in her lab (see illustration). 

A financial trader's work primarily focuses on individual trades, though his trad- 
ing application subdivides each deal into several different subcomponents that are 
meaningful for certain tasks. 

An architect uses various modeling tools, standard 3D shapes, templated compo- 
nents, and many other onscreen elements to design buildings with her building 
modeling application. 

When knowledge workers act "through the screen" of an interactive application, they 
are typically acting on specific, named objects that are framed by and made visible 
through the product's display. These named, visible "pieces" of an application can be 
central to its underlying conceptual models (Cl) and can activate workers' deep seated 
understandings and skills. 

Product teams can adapt many interaction objects from existing tools, resources, work 
products (LI), and other artifacts that have historical trajectories of use within a knowl- 
edge work domain (A). In order for these conventional objects to make sense in a com- 
puting context, they may require substantial transformation and thoughtful reframing 
(K5). For example, a single artifact may need to broken into multiple interaction objects 
in order to support certain actions (B4, G2). To maintain recognizability, adapted objects 
that undergo considerable redesign can reference conventional visual forms (F2) and 
useful iconic resemblances (L3). 

Existing domain objects may not adequately support some of a product team's con- 
cepts for mediating work. Teams must commonly envision new interaction objects to 
represent useful system concepts that have no previous corollary in offline work, such 
as customization settings (C8) or object templates (BIO). 

When product teams do not actively consider the menageries of interactive objects 
that form the primary "materials" of their sketched application concepts, opportunities 
to drive learnability and interaction clarity can be lost (C9, G3). Workers may be forced 
to make sense of unfamiliar, strangely named structures that are essentially external 
manifestations of a product team's own misunderstandings. Central domain artifacts 
may be overlooked or underemphasized (A9), which may cause workers to see 
resulting applications as irrelevant (K3) and excessively effortful to learn (D2, D3). 


Setting up a new 
clinical study in my 
lab's information 
management applica- 
tion means creating 
a set of expected and 
familiar items for my 
plans... 



These are the things that 
we talk about in our lab, 
that "live" in our lab's 
shared database... 



OBJECTS CREATED FOR A SMALL CLINICAL STUDY 


Study File 


1 


Automation Procedure 


Clinical Samples lllllll 


What artifacts do targeted knowledge workers currently focus 
on in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate, 
and how might these objects be embodied in your application 
concepts? What new interaction objects are implied in your 
sketches of functional possibilities? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What inventory of artifacts from targeted individuals' environments might your 
team consider as potential elements and references for your computing tool? 

Who uses each type of artifact, and how do they use them? How does usage vary 
across targeted organizations? 

What characteristics do workers value in the objects that they currently use? 

What emotional connections do they inspire? 

Are these artifacts primarily physical, primarily digital, or a combination of the two? 
How permanent or malleable are they? 

How have these artifacts evolved into their current state within particular 
organizations or larger professions? What can be learned from recent evolutionary 
steps in these historical trajectories? 

What nomenclature do targeted workers from different organizations and market 
segments currently use in reference to specific artifacts? 

Which existing objects might benefit from meaningful subdivision or elaboration 
within the setting of your team's application concepts? 

How could useful representational characteristics of certain artifacts be preserved 
or even enhanced? 

Which existing artifacts could be difficult to effectively translate into a cohesive 
and well resolved onscreen object? How might these challenges impact your team's 
sketched functionality concepts? 

What conventional interaction objects, found in many computing tools, are implied 
in your ideas about mediating work? 

How might your team invoke workers' valuable conceptions of known artifacts as 
part of new interactions and representational forms? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


Test Tubes 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 


See also: B, C, F, H, I, J, K1 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B2. Flexible Identification of Object Instances 


In order to effectively support knowledge work practice, 
certain types of interaction objects typically need to have 
multiple instances. Especially for those object types that are 
higher volume and a main focus of ongoing effort, product 
teams can envision flexible, complimentary options that could 
allow workers to apply meaningful identification schemes. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader often needs to find previously completed transactions in his trad- 
ing application. He can identify individual trades by their unique trade numbers or 
a combination factors such as the security traded, the quantity traded, and which 
trader in his group completed the deal (see illustration). 

An architect names and saves a selected structural element as a reusable template 
within her building modeling application. She applies a variety of searchable 
attributes to the new template, including the building element's function and 
material composition. 

A scientist identifies a new clinical sample in her laboratory information manage- 
ment application using a code for the tissue's donor and the experimental treatment 
that it will undergo. 

The identification of an individual artifact can trigger a knowledge worker's memories 
and understandings of its place and meaning in their work (A, D3). The naming or cat- 
egorization of an artifact can also act as a bridge to existing, related information (B3). 

Product teams may find that identification requirements can vary drastically for differ- 
ent types of interaction objects in their application concepts. Granular objects, such 
as a single point in a drawing, often require no identification other than their location 
in space. Low volume objects based on domain artifacts may need only a simple, yet 
highly flexible, "name" field (A9) in order to be effectively integrated into workers' 
practice. High volume, persistent objects (I) that are a primary focus in work activities 
(F2) can require a number of complementary identification attributes (K). In situations 
where teams find it difficult to envision standardization of these attributes, knowledge 
workers may value customizable identification functionality (C8) that allows them to 
develop information management strategies (II) to meet their local needs (A7, A8, Kl). 


There are so many 
trades made even in 
an hour, it's hard to 
remember very much 
information about any 
one given deal... 


Financial 

Trader 



One thing that is very helpful is that 
I can search by entering any 
combination of different identifying 
aspects for a trade... 


IDENTIFYING ATTRIBUTES 


Unique Number 

Description Tags ^ 

Object State • 

Date * 


O 


^ Entered By 

0 Transaction Category 

Security 

Trader Notes 


What flexible, complimentary methods might your team 
envision to allow targeted knowledge workers to identify and 
easily recognize certain instances of interaction objects within 
your application concepts? How might different identification 
options drive different approaches to information structuring 
and seeking behaviors? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently identify specific instances of their workplace 
artifacts — especially those items that are involved in the tasks and larger activities 
that your team is striving to mediate? 

Are existing methods based on free form names? Do they contain categorical 
identification attributes? 

What important variations in identification approaches can your team find within 
and across targeted organizations? 

How might your team translate existing identification methods into your application 
concepts? How could existing methods be extended? 

What object identification information will satisfy the majority of cases? How much 
identification might be too much? 

What customizations might your team envision to support uncommon object 
identification needs within targeted organizations? Will this functionality provide 
enough value to offset its added complexity? 

How will workers enter object identification data in your sketched functionality 
concepts? What innovative methods might your team envision to valuably decrease 
these efforts? 

As volumes of data build up over time, what secondary information could also serve 
as identification for different types of interaction objects? What implicit attributes 
could become elements of larger identification schemes? 

How might your team's ideas about such schemes relate to your other design 
responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of information? 


When product teams do not actively consider how individuals and organizations could 
meaningfully identify various interaction objects, opportunities to facilitate important 
clarity within diverse work practices can be lost. Inadequate object ID information can 
hinder many aspects of knowledge work, such as retrieval of application content (12, 13) 
or the orchestration of collaborative action (A7, C7, G4). When faced with limited ob- 
ject identification functionality, workers may define cumbersome and elaborate naming 
conventions in an effort to address a range of identification needs (D2, D3, El, E2). 

Conversely, excess identification fields and options may create situations where 
workers feel that they need to enter more data than is practically valuable. 


And eventually. 

I'll figure out a 
way to navigate 
the information in 
order to find a 
certain deal or 
whatever I'm 
looking for... 



Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B, C5, FI, Fll, G2, H4, 1, J5, J6 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B3. Coupling of Application and Real World Objects 


Some knowledge work applications contain interaction 
objects that are extensions of, rather than replacements for, 
offline artifacts. In these cases, product teams can envision 
interactions that tightly couple onscreen and off screen 
equivalents in order to promote a more efficient, direct, 
and unified experience. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist places a test tube containing a clinical sample into a rack next her com- 
puter workstation. Her lab's information management application reads a signal 
emitted from a small tag on the test tube, then displays stored information about 
the tube's contents on her screen (see illustration). 

An architect scans a cardboard model of a building form into her building modeling 
application. She gives the computing file the same name as the one she has written 
in black marker on the cardboard version. 

A financial trader scans a barcode on a paper trade cancellation form that was faxed 
to him. His trading application pulls up the associated trade and prompts him to 
initiate the cancellation process. 

The adoption of computing into knowledge work practices typically does not mean that 
workers will suddenly switch to only manipulating symbols on screens. In many types of 
knowledge work, tangible, real world objects can remain an important part of individual 
or collaborative behaviors (A). 

The coupling of offline objects to their digital equivalent, or other associated content 
within a computing tool (G6), can be considered a special type of coordination between 
representations of workplace information (FI). The experience of carefully designed, 
tightly coupled coordinations can extend both into and out of a computer's display. 
Physical objects can become interactive entry points into an application's content. From 
the other side of the relationship, onscreen interactions can map back toward physical 
objects, potentially creating new forms of pervasive awareness and telepresence. 

Product teams can envision compelling, goal oriented experiences of connective 
threads between the screen and material objects. At a minimum, common identifying 
information (B2) between tangible artifacts and their application equivalents can act 
as a coordinating link (G5). Some knowledge work domains present opportunities for 
teams to envision more extensive coordination of the physical and the intangible, based 
on, for example, well characterized transition points in work sequences (D5, Gl, J3). 

When product teams do not actively consider where bridges between physical and 
digital objects could be compelling, feasible, and valuable in their application concepts, 
opportunities to provide a powerful sense of direct action and engagement can be lost 
(K13). Workers may experience online and offline instances of an object as disjointed 
and separate, which can make such applications more effortful to use when compared 
with potential scenarios of interactive connection (D2, D3, K2, K6). 

See also: B, E, FI, F9, G, H4, 15, J2, J5, J7, L3, Ml 


Our lab's information 
management soft- 
ware is set up to 
"know," in a limited 
way, where things 
are in the lab... 



So, for example, right now 
the application has no 
data displayed... 

I'm going to put a test 
tube into the reader rack, 
and it will pull up related 
data from the system... 


/ \ 


1 .1 □ 
1 1 □ □ □ 


□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 

□ 1 

□ 

□ — 







What interaction objects in your team’s application concepts 
could benefit from a preserved connection to related off screen 
artifacts? What functionality concepts might your team envision 
to allow targeted knowledge workers to usefully recognize and 
meaningfully act through these connections? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What real world objects in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate 
are not likely not be replaced by an onscreen equivalent? 

What scenarios could potentially lead to new physical objects being created based 
on the contents of your product? 

What types of targeted organizations might be more likely to "hold onto" the 
physical incarnations of their otherwise onscreen work? Why? 

What targeted tasks or larger activities might benefit from the tandem use of both 
physical and digital instantiations of an artifact? 

What coordinations between interaction objects and their off screen equivalents, 
such as matching identification information, could provide clarifying utility and 
reduce workers' efforts? 

What larger technology and market trends could influence your team's ideas about 
intentionally coupling physical and digital objects? What might be feasible if the 
value proposition was compelling enough? 

What valued characteristics of real world objects could be difficult to include in 
corresponding onscreen objects, and vice versa? 

How might these deficiencies drive workers to turn to the "other" version of an 
object? How could these transitions be crystallized into goal directed interaction 
pathways within your application concepts? 

What novel interaction methods might your team envision to tightly couple certain 
real world objects with associated content in your computing tool? How could 
these methods directly bridge well characterized seams in specific work practices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


And now the reader has 
found the test tube and 
brought the sample up 
onto the screen... 

It shows related sample 
data because I'm in the 
samples view of the tool... 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B4. Object Associations and User Defined Objects 


Interaction objects can carry default and worker defined 
linkages to other objects within a computing application. 
Product teams can envision how clear and actionable pres- 
entations of these object associations could allow workers 
to offload effort while acting in informed and confident ways. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect groups together a series of elements in her building modeling applica- 
tion and identifies it as a new type of window assembly. The newly grouped object 
maintains easily recognizable linkages to several important functional properties as 
well as her early notes on its proposed construction (see illustration). 

A scientist deletes a set of clinical samples from the scope of a specific report in her 
analysis application. The report dynamically updates with a notation that certain 
data has been removed from its contents and that the excluded data is still 
persistently available in the database. 

A financial trader uses his trading application to group together differing quantities 
of several different securities into a large deal proposal. He then divides the con- 
tents of the proposal into three different categories based on the estimated values 
of each line item. 

Knowledge workers create, manage, and make use of relationships in information. 
Computing applications can excel at storing, presenting, and acting through complex 
associations that their users would otherwise find difficult or nearly impossible to 
manage (E). 

As part of envisioning interaction objects (Bl) and their potential roles in work practices 
(A, B8, B9), product teams can map out inherent hierarchies and linkages that need to 
be made clear to users of their computing tools. Teams can also envision circumstances 
where it could be valuable to allow workers to define their own associations, either 
implicitly, through the attribution of similar traits across multiple objects, or explicitly, 
by associating selected elements to form larger structures. 

Associations between objects can allow workers to usefully propagate a single interac- 
tion across a number of related elements. Clearly communicated conceptual models 
(Cl) and visual representations for levels of selection (F, G2) can be essential for sup- 
porting different scopes of action. These factors can also be crucial in the context of 
collaborative, shared data environments (C7, G4). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of object associations 
within their application concepts, resulting products can contain serious flaws. Workers 
may commit critical errors when actions cascade unexpectedly through linkages that 
are difficult to trace and predict (C9, G3). When expected linkages are not present and 
cannot be created (G5, M4), workers may have to effo rtfully make individual modifica- 
tions to objects in series, rather than acting on larger groupings (D2, D3). Absent cues 
about relationships between objects may also necessitate time consuming, trial and 
error exploration. 



So I'm grouping it together 
into a single object in the 
building modeling tool, 
which will preserve the 
details of the individual 
pieces that it's made from 
and all the related info... 



ASSOCIATIONS WITHIN SELECTION 


Object grouped by user 


Component objects 


Properties of objects 



Annotations 


What connections and interrelations could be present in the 
inventories of interaction objects that your team has identified? 
How might your sketched functionality concepts allow targeted 
knowledge workers to define, recognize, make senses of, 
navigate, use, or even defend against these associations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What linkages between artifacts do targeted individuals currently manage in the 
tasks and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do people think about these relationships? What nomenclature do they 
currently use to describe different associations and connections between artifacts? 

What default linkages and hierarchies of interaction objects are implied within 
your team's application concepts? 

What implicit associations between objects might be created through the 
attribution of similar traits across multiple object instances? 

In what scenario contexts might it be valuable to allow workers to group selected 
interaction objects together into larger structures? 

What goal directed pathways of action could be made available based on the 
presence or absence of certain object associations? 

How might certain user selections and actions trace through the linkages that your 
team has envisioned? 

What conventions might you apply throughout your product to promote consistent 
and understandable behaviors in object relationships? 

How might clear conceptual models for different types of object linkages be 
communicated within your functionality concepts? 

How could legible design communication prevent unexpected effects via unseen 
connections? 

How might your team's ideas about object associations inspire you to ideate 
valuable new interactions and representational forms? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B, C5, C8, F, G6, I, K3, Kll 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B5. Object States and Activity Flow Visibility 


Understanding the current state of interaction objects can be 
crucial for the effective planning and execution of knowledge 
work. Especially for those object types that are higher volume 
and a main focus of workers’ ongoing efforts, product teams 
can envision appropriate states that could communicate potent 
meaning and directive pathways of action. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader reviews the status of a number of negotiation messages in his 
trading application to determine whether he needs to put any more effort into 
them. Scanning the list, he decides to move forward with booking other trades 

(see illustration). 

An architect waits for her building modeling application to render one segment of 
a complex design. Since all of the elements involved in that rendering are shown 
as locked for editing until the process is complete, she temporarily navigates to 
another area in the model to make edits. 

A scientist turns to her lab's information management application to review how 
many samples in a clinical study have not yet been processed. This information 
allows her to estimate a timeframe for the study's completion and to plan her lab 
technicians' work schedules. 

Object states can be displayed implicitly, based on various object attributes, or ex- 
plicitly, through preordained state indicators. Recognizable and meaningful states can 
become an effective basis for organizing (II) and locating useful categories of applica- 
tion content (12, 13). They can also determine which objects and associated avenues of 
interaction (C4) are visible to particular users at a given time (C5). These gleanings can 
allow knowledge workers to prioritize their efforts and plan appropriate courses of ac- 
tion (D3, D5) in cooperative scenarios (A7, C7, G4) and standardized processes (C6, J3). 

Product teams can clearly define appropriate object states based on their ideas about 
how different interaction objects might fit into mediated work. They can envision how 
these states could be communicated though domain language (F10) and other methods 
that invoke workers' deep seated understandings of place and priority (Cl). Teams can 
also explore flexibilities that might allow organizations to define their own object states 
to meet local needs (C8, Kll). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of meaningful object 
states in their application concepts, opportunities to clarify knowledge workers' current 
progress and options can be lost. When explicit state information is unclear or ex- 
cluded, workers may need to effortfully dive into the attributes of interaction objects in 
order to derive their status (D2). These deficiencies may also lead to errors in timing 
(C9, G3) and less optimal work outcomes (LI). 

Conversely, object states that push too much standardization can lead to confusing 
and dissatisfactory limitations on work processes (A9). These design issues can force 
individuals and organizations to adopt unwanted changes in their cultures in order 
to match a system's seemingly arbitrary rules (A4). 

See also: A, B, CIO, E3, F, Jl, H, 17, Ml, M4 


I'm negotiating a 
bunch of tougher 
deals at the same 
time, so I'm constantly 
going back to my 
messages to see what 
I need to respond to... 


Financial 

Trader 



All of the messages have 
easy to understand codes 
that tell me the state of 
each negotiation... 



What useful or necessary states can your team envision for key 
interaction objects in your application concepts? How might 
these object states play meaningful and directive roles in your 
functional responses for targeted knowledge work practices? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently categorize the states of different artifacts in 
the tasks and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do the physical placements and observed "ownership" of certain artifacts 
currently imply state information? 

What do particular states "say" about the work that has been accomplished on or 
around an artifact? The work that needs to be done? The people involved? 

What differences can your team find in how targeted organizations categorize these 
states? What differences may be difficult to reconcile? 

Will the states that workers currently talk about and use translate well into an 
interactive application? Why or why not? 

What novel states might targeted individuals and organizations value? How 
might the introduction of a new computing tool present opportunities to usefully 
standardize certain categorizations in work process? 

What new states will your team need to introduce in order to clarify and support 
your functionality concepts? What design communication could effectively explain 
these new conditions? 


MESSAGES BY STATE CATEGORIES 


Negotiation with 
Minor Changes 


Negotiation with Cancelled 

Major Changes Negotiation 



It looks like things aren't going so 
well with most of these, but I'll 
wrap up the one with minor 
changes before moving on to 
making new deals... 


How might new states offload the need to be vigilant for certain changes in 
interaction objects, potentially tying into alerting functionalities? 

Has your team envisioned any single track processes that must be completed 
without interruption in order to be effective? How might these "untouchable" 
intervals influence objects' states? 

How might error prevention and handling scenarios require additional object states? 
Could these error states impact larger, application states? 

Which pathways of action might be enabled or disabled when an interaction object 
is in various states? 

Where might certain object state categorizations prove to be too confining for open 
or variable work practices? 

What interactions and visual representations could allow users to usefully 
understand states across collections of similar objects? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B6. Flagged Variability within or between Objects 


There are often aspects of interaction objects, outside of any 
explicit states, that are important to call to knowledge workers’ 
attentions in certain contexts. Product teams can envision how 
adaptive flagging of central variabilities could reduce the effort 
needed to examine key characteristics of individual objects. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist notices that her lab's information management application has flagged 
a sample as having different attributes than other the samples that are associated 
with the same clinical research participant. She reviews the flagged sample's details 
and discovers that a technician has made a data entry error that she needs to 
investigate before proceeding (see illustration). 

A financial trader reviews a list of incoming deal proposals. He looks for items that 
his trading application has automatically flagged as being immediately executable, 
indicating that his firm has sufficient quantity of the holding in question to meet 
a proposed deal's stated needs. 

An architect switches to a view in her building modeling application that flags 
elements of the project's 3D model where her team has not applied any project 
requirements tags. 

When an abundance of interaction objects are displayed simultaneously, knowledge 
workers' content rich computing displays may turn into dense, perceptually "flat" 
sheets of information (Bl, I). While defined object states (B6) can determine available 
avenues of interaction (C4) and other important factors, secondary, strictly information- 
al characterization of interaction objects can help workers attend to and make sense 
of important information (D3, D6, F10). 

Visible and meaningful flags that indicate certain categorical conditions in an object's 
attributes (A4) can be useful while workers organize (II), retrieve (12), browse (F5), and 
transform application content (F8) to meet particular goals. The categorical basis of a 
flag can come from specific information that workers' have previously entered, or it can 
be a derived value that is automatically calculated based on domain appropriate rules 
(C8, E3, E4). 

Certain flags may appear only in the context of certain interactions or object states (B8, 
B9). For example, they can be implemented as a method for preventing human error 
in defined processes (C9, G3), calling out values that could be important for effective 
decision making. 


I'm using our lab's 
main data manage- 
ment application to 
find all of the samples 
that are involved with 
our current clinical 
study... 



And I've got a set of search 
results back that I'm 
scrolling through... 


And the tool is saying that 
there is something wrong 
with one of the samples... 



When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of flagged variabilities 
for key objects in their application concepts, knowledge workers may need to dive into 
the details of complex data structures in order to investigate their attributes. Due to 
constrained time and attention, people may not always perform these additional efforts 
(D2), potentially leading to crucial errors or important losses of insight that may nega- 
tively impact work outcomes (LI). In the absence of informative flags, filtering 
and sorting on specific object attributes (13) may provide more active pathways 
to accomplish similar goals. 


It looks like a treatment is 
being applied that is not 
found anywhere else in 
this study... 

That's a simple data entry 
error from earlier that I 
can fix right now... 


□ □ 1 = 

= = 

□ = 



Q 




39 


Beyond defined states, what specific pieces of information 
about interaction objects might be especially interesting or 
useful to targeted knowledge workers during the course of their 
practices? How might your team informatively communicate 
these key variabilities through perceptually salient cues? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What characteristics and signs about artifacts do targeted individuals currently 
gravitate to in the tasks and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

Why are these characteristics and signs useful in certain work practices? 

What decisions and actions do they inform? 

How might these existing attributes be translated into valuable flags for your team's 
envisioned interaction objects? 

What meaningful new flags might you envision to call out key object information 
within the interactive flows of your team's sketched functionality concepts? 

How could informative flags prevent human error in certain activity contexts? 

What specific information about an interaction object, if left unknown, might lead 
users to act in error? 

What might the aesthetic presentation of "flags" look like in certain functionality 
concepts? How might these cues relate to any error management conventions your 
team has defined? 

How could certain flags convey their priority, simply based on their level of salience 
on the screen? 

How might your team's ideas for specific flags inspire you to ideate valuable new 
interactions and representational forms? 

What flagging categories and conventions might your team establish and 
consistently apply throughout your computing tool? 

Could simplifying certain interaction objects make more sense than flagging 
important pieces of information within them? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B, D, F, G4, G6, H3, Jl, L, Ml 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B7. Object Ownership and Availability Rules 


Similar to offline, real world artifacts in a knowledge workplace, 
onscreen interaction objects can benefit from clear and 
consistent rules governing who can perform actions on or 
with them at a given time. Product teams can envision and 
communicate rules that are culturally appropriate, logically 
feasible, and understandably clear. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect selects a segment of a design in her building modeling application to 
"check it out" so that she can make some small modifications, only to find that the 
segment is currently checked out by a consulting civil engineer. The application 
provides her an option to work in an alternate version of the segment, which no one 
else will be able to access until she later merges it back with the main version of the 
model (see illustration). 

A financial trader attempts to trade all of his firm's holdings of a particular security, 
but his trading application displays a message that prevents him from completing 
the transaction. It seems that part of the total amount has been locked by another 
trader who has indicated that he wants to use it as part of a higher value deal. 

A scientist cannot change the name of a clinical sample in her lab's information 
management application because an automated instrument is currently processing 
portions of the sample's tissue. 

In order to effectively accomplish work in their complex cultural and organizational 
environments (Al), knowledge workers often become skilled at cooperatively manag- 
ing access to and use of shared information, tools, and other artifacts. In the inherent 
abstraction of shared computing environments, workers may find it difficult to hold 
onto some of these existing skills as portions of their material culture, and its associ- 
ated practices, are migrated toward individualistic computer screens. Workers can 
become somewhat dependant on their applications for clarification around who 
currently "owns" what and how they might use it themselves (C7, G4). 

Applications can support both division of labor (J3) and collaborative practices (A7, J4) 
by reinforcing understandable rules for the ownership and availability of objects (Cl). 
Product teams can envision these rules based on contemporary conventions, which 
may vary for different types or levels of objects in a system (C3). Availability rules can 
be tied to user permissions (A2, C5), though such rules can also be found in applications 
without any notion of differential user privileges. Products that will not have features 
for controlling object ownership can sometimes be envisioned to leverage available 
rules from a coordinated storage technology, such as a file server or database (K10). 

When product teams do not actively consider how they might clarify object ownership 
and availability rules, resulting applications may present opportunities for frustrat- 
ing conflicts and versioning problems in collaborative and cooperative scenarios (HI). 
Without a clear, consistently applied model of when objects are accessible for intended 
actions, workers may find planning the flow of their practices to be excessively effortful, 
inaccurate, and unpredictable (D2, D3, D4). 

See also: A, B, D6, E3, F10, H, I, Jl, J5 


So next, I am going to 
work on that northern 
section of the building 
model, where I need to 
make some changes... 



Architect 


But it looks like one of our 
consultants is currently 
working there too. So that 
means that I can't make 
any changes in the main 
model. That's just the rules 
of the system, to help 
prevent conflicts... 




Consulting 

Engineer 


/ 


SEGMENT OF 
BUILDING MODEL 


MAIN VERSION 
"OWNED" BY 
CONSULTANT 


ARCHITECT'S 
OWN SEPARATE 
VERSION 


So I can check out my own version of that segment. If there are any conflicts 
when I check my version back in, the software will help us sort them out later... 


40 


Based on your team’s understanding of targeted cultural 
environments and knowledge work practices, what rules can 
you envision for key interaction objects to ensure that they are 
“owned” and accessed by workers in appropriate and 
useful ways? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What rules do targeted individuals implicitly or explicitly follow to promote the 
effective sharing of artifacts within the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? 

How much emphasis do workers place on ownership and availability rules in 
their observed practices? Are these rules valued and useful components of their 
operative cultures? 

How, specifically, do existing rules promote coordination and prevent conflicts? 
What would happen if they were not in place? 

How could your team translate these existing practices into ownership and 
availability rules for interaction objects in your computing tool? 

What new opportunities for conflict might your product create, simply by bringing 
collaboration and cooperation into an abstract computing environment? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
what appropriately applied, logically feasible, and understandably clear rules could 
look like? 

What conventional patterns might your team reference in the design of object 
ownership and availability interactions? 

What overall, "global" rules might your application concepts follow in order to 
control the ownership and availability of objects? 

Which of your team's envisioned scenarios for mediating work could present 
unusual situations where conflicts may occur and additional rules could be 
valuable? How might these special solutions differ from your "global" rules? 

How could users' interactions within your sketched functionality concepts help 
them to situationally build accurate conceptual models around object ownership 
and availability in your product? 

How might these rules relate to your team's ideas about workspace awareness at 
the application level or within specific functional areas? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS 


B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B8. Explicit Mapping of Objects to Work Mediation 


Even though a general understanding of an interaction object 
can carry with it expectations of certain related actions in a 
knowledge work application, product teams can prevent 
oversights and drive interaction clarity by explicitly mapping 
how important objects could fit into targeted operations, tasks, 
and larger activities. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader appreciates how his trading application gives him the shortest set 
of available action options when he looks at a trading message. He feels that these 
targeted options, which are based on each message's current state, allow him to 
work faster, without second guessing what else he could be doing (see illustration). 

A scientist likes that the interface of her new analysis application provides a range 
of choices for exploring data at various levels of aggregation, including actions that 
used to be "missing" or "hidden" when she made certain selections within other 
visualization tools. 

An architect becomes accustomed to the actions that are available to her in a new 
building modeling application. Even though it is an open workspace tool, with many 
options available for her to select at any given time, it feels like the functions that 
she ends up seeing first often correspond to what she is presently currently trying 
to accomplish. 

Knowledge work applications are designed to support specific interactions, and they 
often do not have the plasticity to be applied outside of that range of intended use. 
Product teams can envision the narrative mapping (Gl) between onscreen subjects 
and corresponding options for action as the intersection of specific types of interaction 
objects (Bl), their current state (B5), the current state of the application (CIO), and the 
work practices that an application is being designed to mediate (A). 

A separate model of what workers will want or need to do with key interaction objects 
can provide product teams with a strong foundation for envisioning an application 
framework (C), including interaction pathways (C4), appropriate and consistent inter- 
action patterns (C3, K6), support for collaboration (B7, C7, G4, J4), and support for 
explicit division of labor (J3, G5). Since a single object can be tied to drastically different 
tasks or larger activities (A5), teams can use an overall map of each object's potential 
actions to envision tailored design responses that could match workers' goals in each 
circumstance (A7, A8). 

When product teams do not actively consider how important interaction objects might 
map to the breadth of work that they are striving to mediate with their application con- 
cepts, resulting tools may contain oversights in definition and design that make them 
difficult or impossible to use in some activity contexts (A6, D2, D3, D4). While these 
issues can often be addressed through iterative corrections, cohesive design of activity 
oriented wayfinding often involves something more than the sum of smaller, cumula- 
tive changes. 


Things in this trading 
tool have concise, 
intelligent action lists 
that help me make 
faster decisions... 



For example, depending on the state of 
a trade form, I only get options to act 
that make sense given that state... 


AVAILABLE OPTIONS BY STATE CATEGORIES 


Blank 

Trade Form 


Negotiation with Cancelled 

Major Changes Negotiation 



| Action Options 



3 


Action Options 


Action Option 


How, specifically, could the interaction objects that your team 
has envisioned fit into the knowledge work operations, tasks, 
and larger activities that you are striving to mediate with your 
application concepts? What important relationships between 
objects and actions might you be overlooking? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How are certain artifacts currently used in different activity contexts? 

Are these usages consistent across targeted organizations? 

How might your team map your emerging ideas about mediating knowledge work 
as the actions that can be performed on different types of interaction objects? 

What potential actions could be most important for key object types? 

The least important? 

Where could the nature of a particular action vary based on the type of interaction 
object that it is performed on? How might your sketched functionality concepts 
reflect these differences? 

Which objects typically serve as tools for acting on other objects, rather than being 
the recipients of actions themselves? 

How could the states of interaction objects, or larger application states, influence 
the actions that are available at a given time? 

How might the sum of your team's object and action mappings inform your ideation 
about application frameworks and interaction pathways? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


I don't want to see any buttons for options that I can't click... 

The people that made this tool understand how we trade, 
and so I don't have to think about those little things... 


See also: B, F, G, H, Jl, K, Ml 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B9. Common Management Actions for Objects 


Some types of interaction objects in computing applications 
will typically require a conventional set of management actions, 
such as create, copy, edit, and delete. Product teams can map 
available management actions for different types of interaction 
objects, envisioning what common functionalities might look 
like in different object contexts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect is refining an early design exploration in her building modeling applica- 
tion. She creates a building element, copies it, and pastes a duplicate element in an- 
other part of the building design. She likes how easy it is to create repetitions within 
the model, allowing her to quickly visualize her ideas for building form 
(see illustration). 

A scientist deletes a file in her analysis application where she had pursued the 
wrong approach to a clinical research problem. By deleting the outputs of her faulty 
exploration, she ensures that it will not be mistakenly accessed by herself or others 
in her lab. 

A financial trader creates a new categorizing attribute in his trading application to 
supplement the product's defaults. From that point on, he and other traders in his 
group will have the option of tagging the new informational attribute onto their 
pending and completed deals. 

Interactive applications typically need to provide knowledge workers with some stan- 
dard actions for working with multiple instances of onscreen objects (Bl). Whether the 
interaction object in question is an overall file or a much smaller element, the clarity 
and directness of "management" actions can be an important usability concern. 


What common management actions, such as create, copy, 
edit, and delete, could the interaction objects in your team’s 
application concepts require or benefit from? What important 
management actions might you be overlooking? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently "manage" artifacts, in the computing sense 
of the word, while performing the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? 

Which of the interaction objects in your sketched application concepts will have 
multiple instances, requiring some range of management actions? Which will not? 

How might the understood "location" of individual objects factor into usable object 
management interactions? When is it not an issue? 

Which object types should users not be able to delete? Why? 

Beyond the basic set of management actions, what other actions could become 
standards within your computing tool, such as creating objects from a template or 
resetting objects' attributes to their default values? 

How might your functionality concepts for managing different types of objects 
retain clarifying and learnable similarities? What important differences could be 
useful for managing particular object types? 

How could object management functionalities provide strong feedback about 
action outcomes? What novel interactions and cues could reinforce the successful 
completion of these important tasks? 


I've just finished this 
shape that I want to 
try out as a repeating 
element in the exterior 
of this new building 
that our team is 
currently generating 
ideas for... 



Architect 


So I select the element 
in my modeling tool... 



To ensure that these interactions are sufficient and coherent, product teams can map 
the breadth of object management scenarios presented by their application concepts 
(B8, C3, G2). Management actions frequently include create, copy (E3, E4), edit, and 
delete. Other actions, like creating from a template (BIO) or resetting to defaults (C8), 
can be usefully considered as "standard" for some types of objects (A4). In collaborative 
computing environments (A7, C7, G4), the presence or absence of management actions 
may depend on dynamic rules that prevent negative impacts on the activities of other 
workers (C5, J4). 

When product teams do not actively consider object management actions in their ap- 
plication concepts, they can easily overlook central requirements due to their shared 
assumptions about what will be defined and implemented. When these oversights are 
present, users may, for example, be forced to view out of date content that they cannot 
delete (D4, 1). To overcome some object management deficiencies, knowledge workers 
may need to develop and repeatedly enact excessively effortful work arounds (D2, D3). 

Conversely, for some types of interaction objects, providing certain management 
actions, or even the ability to create multiple instances, may not provide sufficient 
value to warrant the additional complexity (A9, K6). 


And then I repeat it... 


And maybe that feels 
like one too many for 
what I want, so I've 
deleted one of them... 






How might rules supporting collaborative practices influence the range and 
availability of object management actions? 

What error prevention and handling concepts can your team envision to prevent 
loss of valuable information during object management actions? 

How could associations between interaction objects be impacted by certain 
management interactions? When might workers benefit from understanding 
the lineages of these evolving associations? 

What options might allow targeted organizations to appropriately set up different 
user permissions for managing different types of interaction objects? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B, C3, C4, HI, H2, II, 12 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | B. DEFINING INTERACTION OBJECTS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


B1 0. Object Templates 


When knowledge workers repeatedly generate instances of 
interaction objects with similar attributes, they may value the 
ability to create new objects from standard “molds.” Product 
teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow 
workers to offload tedious data entry effort by tailoring and 
making use of object templates. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist creates files for a series of samples in her lab's information management 
application based on a template of attributes that she will use throughout a clinical 
study. She knows that these attribute consistencies will remove problems down- 
stream, when her lab's technicians have actually run these experiments and she 
wants to analyze the resulting collection of data in her analysis application 
(see illustration). 


Consistency and 
information quality is 
incredibly important 
in research work, 
especially as volumes 
of data increase 
exponentially... 



Where might object templates valuably decrease the effort 
needed to create common classes of complex information 
structures in your team’s application concepts? What 
functional options could allow targeted knowledge workers 
to define, share, modify, and use these templates? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Where do targeted individuals currently take steps to promote valued sameness 
in artifacts as part of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do workers categorize and name common variants of workplace artifacts? 
How do these classification schemes vary across targeted organizations? 

What value do these consistencies and categories provide? 


An architect uses her building modeling application to create a series of templated 
objects that satisfy some difficult project requirements. Creating these templates in 
advance will reduce work later, when these standard objects will appear repeatedly 
throughout the building's design. 

A financial trader exporting data from his trading application chooses from a menu 
of templates for different export content and layout formats. The ability to set 
up standard export options saves him a lot of time, especially when compared to 
manually reformatting each export file. 

In many organizations, knowledge workers' activities involve, or even revolve around, 
the creation and recreation of specific work products or their constituent elements 
(A, Bl). To support these tasks, product teams can envision template functionality that 
could allow workers to eliminate some of the effort needed to create certain interaction 
objects (E3, E4), while driving valuable standardization that can promote higher quality 
work outcomes (A4, C6, LI). 

Product teams can envision templates as interaction objects in and of themselves, 
either provided as product defaults or flexibly created by workers to meet the needs 
of certain situations and practices (A7, A8, C8). Creating an object from a template can 
require subsequent effort to make the resulting object complete or to shape it to the 
requirements of a worker's current goals. Even when templates can be easily modified 
(Kll), workers may need to edit or extend the attributes of resulting object instances. 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of object templates in 
their application concepts, workers may find the process of creating essential interac- 
tion objects in resulting products to be excessively effortful (D2, D3). Additionally, key 
opportunities to provide beneficial types of standardization, which computers can excel 
at promoting, may also be lost (C9, G3, J6). 

Conversely, for many types of interaction objects, template functionality may not 
provide sufficient value to warrant its additional complexity (A9, D4, K6). In some cases, 
the ability to create a copy of an existing object can suffice as a method for accomplish- 
ing the same goal. 

See also: A, B, C4, C5, HI, II, K10, Ml, M4 


So when I've got a plan for 
a study and I'm creating 
an extended series of 
samples in the system... 


□ □□ □□□□□□ □□ 
□ □ □□□□□ □□ 



□ □ 

□ = 


□ □ 


I can create one sample 
template... 


And then generate many 
individual, consistent 
samples in the software 
that are slight variations 
on that template... 



Which "primary" interaction objects in your team's application concepts could 
become high volume and the repeated focus of work? 

Which object creation tasks could potentially burden workers with data entry 
efforts? 

How might templates be clearly and visibly differentiated from the type of 
interaction objects that they serve as a "mold" for? 

Which of an object's information attributes should probably not be incorporated 
into a template's standardizing influence? 

How might additional data entry effort, after an object has been created from 
a template, be clarified or lessened? 

What pathways of action could flow out of the creation of an object from 
a template? 

How might users trace an individual interaction object back to the template that 
it was created from? 

What functionality concepts can your team envision to allow workers to clearly 
manage their various templates as specific workplace needs evolve over time? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


C. Establishing an Application Framework 


Valued computing tools can tame complexity 
by structuring workers’ interactions within 
comprehensible, consistent, and cohesive 
overall frames. 

Designing such a clear organization requires 
deliberate and critical exploration of an on- 
screen tool’s potential “shape” and “routes.” 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can synthesize common structural needs with 
their own resonating design ideas in order to 
sketch guiding models and larger interaction 
approaches for their products. 

Early ideation about these application 
structures can “set the stage” for teams’ 
evolving functionality concepts by both 
shaping and reflecting divergent ideas 
about potential user experiences. 


Once product teams have generated a critical mass of sketched ideas about their 
application's potential roles in work practice, they can begin to meaningfully envision 
appropriate concepts for their product's high level "form." This overall form can com- 
municate how a tool will basically work, and it can inherently define a framing range 
of useful interaction constraints. Teams can use these foundations to reshape their 
envisioning of key scenarios for mediated work, driving top down, systemic consistency 
and a larger design strategy across their proposed functional areas. 

Sketching concepts for an application's framework does not entail exacting definition 
or design. Instead, it involves working through important constraints with only as much 
detail as is necessary to realize and communicate potential design concepts. Although 
many of these important constraints can arise organically from the ideation process, 
teams can also derive key constraints for their application's framework from well char- 
acterized challenges that are often manifested in computing tools for knowledge work. 

This category contains 10 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Cl. Intentional and articulated conceptual models 

C2. Application interaction model 

C3. Levels of interaction patterns 

C4. Pathways for task and activity based wayfinding 

C5. Permissions and views tailored to workers' identities 

C6. Standardized application workflows 

C7. Structural support of workspace awareness 

C8. Defaults, customization, and automated tailoring 

C9. Error prevention and handling conventions 

CIO. Predictable application states 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore notions of how their product could frame 
— both conceptually and in a literal interaction design sense — the knowledge work 
practices that they are striving to mediate. Although it can be safely assumed that early 
ideas about an application's framework will grow and change during the envisioning 
process and throughout product implementation, teams can deliberately preserve the 
essential character of the framing form that they have chosen to pursue. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A), "Defining interaction objects" (B), "Clarifying central 
interactions" (G), and "Aiming for aesthetic user experiences" (L) categories. 


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Cl . Intentional and Articulated Conceptual Models 


Knowledge workers develop particular understandings of which 
work practices an interactive application is designed to support, 
how it essentially “works,” and how it might fit into their own 
activities. Product teams can communicate their computing 
tool’s intended conceptual models through application design 
and other channels. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect finds that her studio's new building modeling application requires a 
substantially different mindset. Instead of drawing individual elevations, plans, and 
details for a project, her team will collaboratively create a single, shared 3D model 
of their building design. The new tool itself communicates this overriding distinction 
in numerous ways, including how various functions are named (see illustration). 

A scientist quickly develops a working understanding of how her analysis application 
calculates and presents certain values. Overall, the way the tool displays her lab's 
clinical data reminds her of a powerful, zooming microscope. 

A financial trader receives periodic updates from the vendor that created his firm's 
trading application. In one of these updates, he learns that he will need to develop 
a clear understanding of how, when, and why some new functionalities will usefully 
automate certain trade parameters. 

While mechanical tools can implicitly communicate how they work based on their con- 
struction, digital tools must be designed to communicate their purpose, offerings, and 
behaviors. Knowledge workers incorporate new technologies into their practices based 
on unfolding understandings of how available tools operate (A, K2, K6). Even though 
individual users develop their own conceptual models of a tool over time, product 
teams can attempt to shape these understandings by developing target models and 
striving to communicate them in their application designs. 

To create compelling functional gestalts, product teams can envision conceptual models 
for their products that are framed by and build upon analogies and idioms known by 
their targeted audiences (C3, L2). Innovative models that simply and coherently pres- 
ent predictable relationships can also be quite successful (F3). Complex applications 
can contain multiple levels of nesting conceptual models, ranging from the overarch- 
ing product framework, to individual functional areas (C6, Bl), to functional variations 
driven by differing permissions and identity tailored views (A2, C5). 

When product teams do not actively consider how proposed conceptual models could 
shape workers' experiences, opportunities to drive useful understandings of how an 
application essentially works can be lost. In the absence of clearly communicated 
conceptual models, people may experience computing tools as arbitrary collections 
of controls and pathways (K3), developing their own murky assemblies of functional 
interpretation. Even though these tools can be learnable after committed effort or 
training (D2, D3, M2, K7), potentially valuable functionality may remain undiscovered, 
misunderstood, or misused, requiring additional defensive measures to prevent errors 
(C9, G3). 

See also: B4, C, E5, Gl, L3, Ml 


By adopting building 
information modeling, 
we are considering 
some unprecedented 
changes in how our 
team works... 



OLD: CREATE ISOLATED DRAWING 

The entirety of a building design is 
thought of as the sum of a set of 
separate architectural drawings. 

Use of computing applications 
focuses on creating individual 
representations of a building, 
which must be kept in 
coordination. 


NEW: MODEL CREATES OUTPUTS 

Use of computing applications 
aims to collaboratively create and 
evolve a unified virtual model of 
a building project. 

The information in this unified 
3D model can then be used to 
automatically create all 
traditional architectural plans. 




ELLil 





By comparison, the introduction of 
CAD had little impact on traditional 
practice. CAD changed who was 
doing some things, but the structure 
of work was mostly the same... 


Luckily, everything about this 
tool seems like it is designed 
to clarify this new mindset 
and to help us to build it into 
the way that we work... 


45 


What overall models could encapsulate the “what and how” 
of your interactive application’s proposed roles in targeted 
knowledge work? How might those overall “functional 
stories” be communicated to users? Similarly, how could 
your team promote clear “sub-stories” for each of your central 
functionality ideas? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What organizing, big picture mental models do targeted individuals currently have 
for the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do the mindsets and constraints inherent in different tasks or larger activities 
drive workers to adopt different frameworks for thinking and acting? 

How might your team use your insights into these mental models as a basis for 
envisioning innovative and compelling conceptual models for your computing tool? 

What essential, high level operational approaches in your sketched application ideas 
could reference and extend upon workers' existing ways of thinking about their 
efforts? 

How might individual functionalities make similar connections to workers' current 
understandings? 

What new and different conceptual foundations might workers need to understand 
in order to successfully make use of your computing tool in their own practices? 

How could these new conceptual models be framed by their existing mental 
models? 

How might people in different roles, using application displays that are tailored 
to their own identities, develop different conceptual models for your sketched 
computing tools? How could this impact their common ground for communication? 

What might it sound like when a hypothetical user describes one of your proposed 
conceptual models? What takeaways should they have about your tool's purpose, 
offerings, and behaviors? 

How might your teams' proposed conceptual models be communicated through 
application design and functional scaffolding? Through other channels, such as 
informative marketing and introductory instruction? 

How could your approaches to communicating target conceptual models tie into 
your larger ideas about design strategy and brand? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





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C2. Application Interaction Model 


Knowledge work applications can benefit from a consistent 
and overriding interaction model that defines a computing 
tool’s “shell” of navigation and overall approach to interactivity. 
Product teams can envision interaction models that are 
complementary to targeted work practices, appropriate for 
their sketched design strategies, and framed by workers’ 
experiences with other tools. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist sees that each edge of her analysis application is a panel that can have 
different impacts on the central visualization area of the tool. One edge controls 
what data is being displayed, while another controls how selected data is visualized 

(see illustration). 

A financial trader's new trading application presents four columns, each with a 
different purpose. The left column has tables that drive what is shown in the next 
two columns, while the right column shows market data and other trader's action. 

An architect discovers that her new building modeling application is organized by a 
series of different views of a project, with each view providing its own set of related 
functionality. Since the tool seems to have countless functions, she finds this organi- 
zation method to be very clear and effective. 

Interaction models, in the parlance of this book, are the highest level expressions of an 
application's structure. The population of interaction models used in many knowledge 
work domains does not contain much useful "biodiversity," and, in general, there is 
considerable potential for product teams to explore meaningful innovation in this area. 
Contemporary conventions (L2, C3) are extensively recycled, often with the expectation 
that these standards will drive efficiencies in product development and adoption. 

For many technologists, the selection of an interaction model seems to be simplistically 
divided between either a general, "menus on the top" workspace model, where tasks 
are largely open and unsequenced (B4, LI), or a "wizard" like model, where single track 
processes can be highly constrained (A4, C6). Within these broad categories there is 
considerable room for tailored solutions, and product teams can improve upon con- 
ventional approaches by specifically optimizing them around their sketched concepts 
for mediating work (A, C5). Concerns about interaction efficiency (D2, D3), multitasking 
(G5), learnability (D7, K2, K5, K6), findability (C4), and other factors, can drive teams to 
envision new approaches or consider leveraging specialized interaction models from 
other domains. Iconoclastic interaction models (L5) can be direct expressions of a 
product's conceptual models (Cl) or novel hybrids of different design patterns. 

When product teams do not actively consider divergent approaches for their appli- 
cations' interaction models, opportunities to appropriately tailor the encompassing 
structures of computing tools to targeted work practices can be lost. Beyond lost oppor- 
tunities for targeted innovation, resulting application frameworks may not adequately 
support the flow of workers' practices or sufficiently communicate a tool's purpose, 
offerings, and behaviors. 

See also: B9, C, L, F, G2, J2, Kl, K4, L4 


Each edge of my 
analysis application 
has a clearly defined 
purpose, and it's 
clear where I should 
turn to do different 
things... 




What directions can your team generate for the deliberate 
“shells” of your application concepts, including their approach 
to containing, enabling, and shaping your sketched functionality 
ideas? What types of interaction models could effectively 
support targeted knowledge work in a way that embodies 
your strategic focus? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What interaction models are commonly found in the computing tools that targeted 
individuals currently use? 

Which models are normally associated with the specific tasks and larger activities 
that your team is striving to mediate? 

What larger design and technology trends could inform your ideation process on 
this important topic? 

Which conventional interaction models could be well suited to the quantity and 
type of functionality concepts that your team is considering? What benefits could 
reusing these patterns have for your product's success? What modifications might 
they require? 

What advanced analogies to other types of products might your team draw upon 
when thinking about possible interaction models for your computing tool? 

What types of interaction models could match the embedded conceptual models 
in your sketched application directions? 

Which of your sketched functionality concepts could play a primary role in your 
interaction model choices? Which should probably not? 

How might your team tailor typical interaction model features to better support 
and encompass certain functionality ideas? 

What novel, or even iconoclastic interaction model concepts might you envision? 
How could these concepts embody valuable approaches for sense making, 
organization, and interactive flow in targeted work practices? 

What could it be like to navigate through tasks and larger activities in the interac- 
tion models that your team is considering? Which models could be more likely to 
provide workers with a sense of compelling engagement and accomplishment? 

How could requirements for multitasking, procedural efficiency, or instructional 
clarity influence your interaction model decisions? 

What impacts could different interaction model selections have on brand and 
branding approaches? 

How might your interactive application scale in functionality over time? What im- 
pacts could these scaling scenarios have on your team's interaction model choices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 




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C3. Levels of Interaction Patterns 


Looking across the sketched functional offerings in a product 
team’s application concepts, there are often opportunities to 
categorize and standardize certain repeating patterns. Teams 
can capture and expand upon internal consistencies at different 
levels of granularity, promoting eventual learnability, usability, 
and implementation efficiencies within their computing tools. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect finds that there is an overall feel of consistency in the design of her new 
building modeling application, even though each area of the product seems care- 
fully optimized to support different actions. Across the entire application, different 
tools and dialog boxes are presented in a predictable and clearly mapped manner 
that makes them easy to interpret and use (see illustration). 

A scientist discovers that there are two distinct ways, within the same overall 
interface, that her new analysis application allows her to act. Common, standard 
analysis methods are supported by highly directive, step by step screens, while less 
predictable analyses are supported by a series of flexible workspaces devoted to 
particular approaches. 

A financial trader knows that his trading application has different "categories" of 
screens. When he navigates to tools and options that he does not use very often, 
he recognizes smaller components that follow the same mold as screens that he 
uses repeatedly throughout his day. 

While envisioning applications, many product teams gravitate toward copying low level, 
"literal" user interface patterns from other products that they, and presumably their 
targeted knowledge workers, are familiar with. These vernacular design selections are 
often made on a one by one basis within particular functionality concepts, without 
considering requirements and consistencies across the entirety of a computing tool 
(B9, C6). 

Product teams can envision more expansive value from interaction patterns by map- 
ping them at multiple levels of convergence, starting at an application's interaction 
model (C2) and working downward through several tiers of user interface detail (A4, 

A5). Teams can then experiment with applying their nesting and interrelated patterns 
across their sketched functionality concepts, envisioning how knowledge workers might 
transfer their experiences among interactions (Cl, D7). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of interaction pat- 
terns at different levels within their application concepts, resulting inconsistencies may 
hinder workers' abilities to develop useful expectations. Without these expectations, 
people may find new or infrequently used functionality more difficult to learn (D2, D3, 
K2, K5, K6). When inconsistencies are noticeable, they can also negatively impact 
individuals' perceptions of an application's quality (K12). 

Conversely, product teams that focus too heavily on establishing and applying interac- 
tion patterns can overlook opportunities to envision design concepts that are highly 
tailored to the work practices that they are striving to mediate (A). 


Everywhere I go in this 
software, there is this 
overall feeling of high 
quality consistency... 

I imagine this tool 
being created by a 
single person, even 
though I know it took 
a whole team... 



Architect 


LEVELS OF INTERACTION PATTERNS WITHIN APPLICATION 



Application Views 



Dialogs and Panes 




Smaller Components 


Scanning the breadth of your team’s promising functionality 
concepts, what typical or novel interaction patterns might you 
identify and meaningfully reuse? How might your team organize 
these valuable regularities into different tiers of patterns 
within your application proposals, ranging from large to more 
granular? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What, if any, interaction patterns do targeted individuals expect to see when using 
computing tools in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What patterns, at different levels of granularity, have become a standard part of 
how knowledge workers' understand their computing tools? 

What value do workers find in these known and expected patterns? What do they 
think of the conventions that they currently use? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideation about 
interaction patterns? 

What advanced analogies to other types of products might your team draw upon 
when thinking about appropriate patterns? 

What inherent consistencies are present within the scope of work practice you are 
targeting? Based on these consistencies, which of your envisioned functional areas 
could have strong similarities? 

Within the particulars of your sketched functionalities, what smaller consistencies 
could become internal standards? 

How might the reuse of interaction patterns in your application promote the 
transfer of workers' learning in one interactive experience to other interactive 
experiences? 

Where could the particulars of workers' goals drive meaningful differentiation in 
interaction design responses, rather than patterned standardization? 

When introducing new interaction patterns into workers' practices, what analogies 
might your team make to known interactivity scenarios? 

How might your ideas about your product's larger conceptual and interaction 
models impact your interaction pattern choices? 

How might the emerging language of patterns in your sketched application 
possibilities relate to, or even establish, the pattern language of a broader family 
of products in your firm? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: Bl, C, F, G2, G3, J6, L, K1 




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C4. Pathways for Task and Activity Based Wayfinding 


Effective pathways through interactive applications can be 
structured to allow knowledge workers to navigate based 
on the emergent flow of their own efforts. Product teams 
can derive these pathways from the interrelations between 
different operations, tasks, and larger activities in targeted 
work practices. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader rarely needs to actively locate an entry point to his next action 
within his trading application. The tool is designed to suit the flow of his work, and 
he feels like it is "intelligent" enough to "know" the different actions that he might 
want to accomplish next, providing him with quick ways to get started 

(see illustration). 

A scientist runs a standard transformation algorithm on some of her lab's clinical 
data. Based on the output of this process, her analysis application presents her with 
a set of subsequent actions that she may want to perform next in order to further 
manipulate the content. 

An architect copies and drags a new wall into place within her building modeling 
application. A menu then lists the potential associations and attributes that she 
could select for the new wall, based on its location relative to other elements. 

Interactive applications that are tailored to specific knowledge work practices (A) can 
reflect the flow of those practices back at workers as they accomplish their tasks and 
larger activities (K3, K13). These reflected flows can allow workers to use their existing 
mental models and skills to navigate through contextual, progressively disclosed inter- 
actions (C3), rather than forcing them to learn how to translate their goals into actions 
within a tool's own arcane conventions (Cl, C2). 

Product teams can envision how their proposed mappings between work scenarios 
and interaction objects (Bl, B8) could translate into clear and direct pathways through 
related interfaces. Teams' early envisioning of these routes can focus on primary work 
scenarios, at a level of detail that allows them to sketch viable application concepts. 
Pathway mappings typically become an important part of a product's overall framework 
(C), communicating a tool's available functionalities and its relevance for targeted work 
practices (K3). Certain points along pathways can also appear within related function- 
alities, outside of an application's pervasive "shell," as state based (B5, B6, CIO) and 
contextually relevant navigation options. 

When product teams do not actively consider valuable support for practice based 
wayfinding, resulting applications can feel more like a collection of discrete functions 
than a cohesive, narrative experience (Gl). In entirely disjointed products, workers 
must first discover what functionality is available to them and then learn to navigate to 
appropriate functions in sequence. For many knowledge work situations, users may find 
this sort of wayfinding to be excessively effortful to learn and use effectively (D2, K2, 

K6) without making errors (C9, G3). These negative effects may lead to a considerable 
amount of undiscovered or intentionally unused functionality (D3, D4). 


Even as I make what 
feel like very different 
choices, this tool is 
always somehow 
stepping me through 
what I want to do... 



For example, I search for 
messages from a certain 
trader at another firm... 

And the software high- 
lights the messages from 
him that it recommends... 


It gives me the option to 
transform the incoming 
message into a trade 
ticket... 

And then I go through the 
highlighted steps to 
complete the deal... 


Next, once that deal is 
finished, the tool gives me 
messages right here about 
what I might want to do 
next, based on rules that 
we set up in our group... 





Recommended Trade 


□ 




]□□□□□ 


T 



48 


How might your team organize the structuring flow of functional 
options in your application concepts around understood 
pathways of meaningful action? How could navigation 
“naturally” and desirably unfold through the course of targeted 
knowledge workers’ own decisions and efforts within your 
computing tool? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How might the interrelations between operations, tasks, and larger activities 
that your team is striving to mediate be reflected in the structural flows of your 
application concepts? 

How might your team situate your sketched functionalities within these essential 
flows? 

What functional areas will contain volumes of content that could benefit from clear, 
categorical route suggestions? 

What might it be like to navigate through different pathways as part of targeted 
work practices? Which of your team's pathway ideas could be more likely to provide 
workers with a sense of compelling engagement and accomplishment? 

How could interactive routes be made to feel as if they are tailored to the inherent 
flow of work practice, disclosing content and functionality progressively in order to 
reduce experienced complexity? 

How might the interaction models of your team's application concepts communicate 
available pathways of action to users? Would workers benefit from a "map" or is it 
enough to present state based, contextually relevant pathways? 

Where could important pathway options be contextually tied into your sketched 
functionality concepts? 

How important is it for workers to have an understanding of where they are in a 
process? What wayfinding cues could be appropriate in different scenarios? 

How directive should interactive pathways be? Where could constrictive, 
standardizing pathways undesirably limit workers' efforts? 

How might the availability of interactive pathways be influenced by application 
and interaction object states? 

What might the experience be like when "turning to" your team's product from 
work practices that are accomplished outside of the screen, or when transitioning 
away from your product into other parts of work activity? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: D7, F, G, K5, K8, K9, Ml 




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C5. Permissions and Views Tailored to Workers’ Identities 


Application displays that are tailored to knowledge workers’ 
identities can support both organizational goals and workers’ 
own preferred ranges of practice. Product teams can envision 
how the content and functionalities within their computing tools 
could be segmented into areas and views that are intended for 
certain audiences within the same working culture. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist logs into her analysis application to view data in one of her lab's clinical 
studies, knowing that her login identity will allow her to use all of the tool's many 
options. She has organized this same study's permissions so that technicians in her 
lab can only use the analysis tool to upload their completed experiments and 
manually check the quality of their data (see illustration). 

An architect sets up the permissions of a new project in her building modeling 
application to have different views and options for other architects working on the 
project; external consultants, such as civil engineers; and even the project's client, 
who will only be able to view building plans and renderings generated at certain 
project milestones. 

A financial trader knows that, within the trading application that he uses every day, 
there are data views that are only available to his bosses. 

Knowledge workers enacting different roles within an organization may perform dif- 
ferent activities (C6) or contribute to the same activity via separate goals and practices 
(A7, A8). In the context of these established divisions in responsibilities, organizations 
may have specific requirements for segmenting an interactive application's scope to 
meaningfully suit categorized identities in their workforces (Al, A2). Permissions 
features in computing tools can shape each user's ability to see and make use of 
certain data and interaction options. 



Based on observed role segmentations and security needs in 
the organizations that your team is targeting, what approaches 
can you envision for meaningfully categorizing knowledge 
workers’ identities in your application concepts? How might 
these categories drive differing access and interactions with 
certain functionalities and content? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What divisions of labor do targeted organizations currently prescribe for the work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? What rules currently dictate access 
to certain workplace artifacts? 

How are workers' identities currently managed within targeted organizations? 

How important, relatively, is the security of these identities? 

How flexible or prescriptive are different individuals' roles in observed practice? 

Do they actually correspond to organizational chart abstractions, or are targeted 
workers bigger generalists than they often realize or admit? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideation on 
the topic of identity management approaches? 

How might your team model existing power relationships and levels of responsibility 
within targeted organizations in relation to your sketched application concepts? 

Which functional areas and interaction objects stand out as "belonging" to some 
categories of specialized workers but not to others? 

At what point does it make sense for your team to start thinking of specialized, role 
based permission sets as fundamentally different views your application, rather than 
the same interactive frame with some features turned on or off? 


Product teams can envision permissions concepts that map to key segmentation needs 
and desired levels of flexibility. Teams can also sketch structural approaches for tailoring 
application views to the needs of different user segments, displaying available function- 
ality (A9) and content (B5, B7) in specialized interface layouts and relevant representa- 
tional forms (F). 

When product teams do not adequately consider the potential role of application per- 
missions and views tailored to workers' identities, opportunities to clarify interactions 
for different audience segments can be lost. Resulting applications may not contain 
valuable barriers to access that can be essential for supporting specific cultures of work 
(C8). Some individuals may find that these products present content and functionality 
intended for "too many different people" at the same time, making these tools exces- 
sively effortful to learn and use effectively (D2, D3, K2, K6) without crossing role based 
boundaries and committing errors (D4, C9, G3). 

Conversely, when permissions and tailored views are applied without sufficiently con- 
sidering potential impacts on collaboration between roles (C7, G4), workers may find 
it more difficult to establish common ground for communication (FI, J2). 



Scientists in our lab can do what ever they want within our data 
sandbox, but for security reasons, lab techs can only do some 
limited tests, and other staff do not have any access at all... 


How might separate, permissions based views drive desirable simplicity and 
decreased learning effort? 

Where might the splintering of a computing tool into different views introduce 
undesirable limitations on individual action, opportunities for mode errors, 
and other breakdowns? 

What impact could identity based segmentations have on the larger conceptual 
and interaction models of your sketched products? 

What implications could divergent application views have for collaboration and 
communication within your computing tool? How will workers maintain common 
ground? 

How might your team's approaches for permissions and identity based views relate 
to your functionality concepts supporting cooperation, collaboration, 
and workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B8, C, G7, J, M 


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C6. Standardized Application Workflows 


Some cooperative processes in knowledge work can be 
supported by computing functionalities that facilitate entire 
sequences of standardized effort. Product teams can envision 
functionality concepts that could valuably distribute segments 
of larger work processes among multiple users; however, 
restrictive workflows may not always be an appropriate 
design response. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader wants to execute a trade that is so large that it requires signoff 
from his manager. The trading application displays a large notification on the 
manager's screen, and the two coworkers shout back and forth across the trading 
floor about the merits of the potential deal. Eventually, the manager indicates his 
approval in his own view of the trading application, which then executes the 
pending transaction (see illustration). 

A scientist sets up a work request in her lab's information management application 
so that a certain technician will rerun some clinical samples. When the technician 
receives this work request, he can quickly translate the experimental protocol into 
his own laboratory processes, run the samples, and then upload the new data for 
the scientist to review. 

An architect defines a standardized workflow in her building modeling application 
that will usefully drive how her team collaboratively uploads, evaluates, and catego- 
rizes early ideas for a new building project. 

Established practices in knowledge work professions may bear little resemblance, either 
literally or in spirit, to highly standardized, "scientifically managed" assembly lines. It 
can be important to recognize, however, that even within otherwise variable activities 
(A7, A8) there may exist some consistent, sequential segments of established and 
repeated work process (A4). Requirements for these workflow standardizations can 
arise from individual workers, their organizations, or larger communities of practice. 

Product teams' concepts for mediating workflow processes can have substantial 
impacts on their sketched ideas for cross functional application frameworks (Cl, C2). 
Computer mediated workflows can outline the number and type of steps to be com- 
pleted, levels of instructiveness (K2, K7), how handoffs will occur (C5, G7, J3), and many 
other important factors. Knowledge workers may value how these process oriented 
functionalities reduce undesired effort through automation (E3, E4) and distribution of 
efforts to colleagues (J). Appropriate workflow tools may also improve the predictability 
and quality of cooperative outputs (C9, G3, LI). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of standardized work- 
flows in their application concepts, opportunities to translate existing workflows, or to 
create new value in workers' experiences of larger processes, can be lost. 

Conversely, highly skilled knowledge workers may not always value novel standardiza- 
tion that is rooted in distant notions of efficiency, such as those sometimes outlined 
in the name of "business process redesign" (Dl, G5). 


This huge trade could 
be just what we need, 
but the trading soft- 
ware is probably 
going to require that I 
get sign off for it... 


Financial 

Trader 


And there's the notice 
saying I need sign off... 

So it is sending my boss a 
message, and I'll holler at 
him too... 




Okay, I will check it 
out right now... 

Nice deal! 

I'm approving it... 


Trading 

Manager 


And there's the expected 
confirmation message 
that says that it's done, 
which I can close or just 
wait for it to go away in a 
moment... 


# Trade Approved 

□ ~ 




What portions of the knowledge work that your team is 
targeting truly follow standardized and routine processes — 
but still require human judgment and action? How might your 
application concepts meaningfully structure and usefully reduce 
burdens in these procedural flows for all involved? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which tasks or larger activities that your team is striving to mediate are currently 
part of standardized workflow processes? 

What other artifacts and technologies are involved in these processes? 

What value do current workflows provide in targeted organizations? 

What are the individual measures of success for different segments of existing 
workflows? For entire workflows? 

What work processes do both knowledge workers and their organizations want to 
standardize further? Where might organizational goals for workflow crystallization 
show a clear mismatch with workers' goals and preferred ways of practicing? 

How could your application concepts maintain or expand upon the value of existing 
workflow processes? How might they provide valuable new workflow options? 

When might it be more appropriate to support structured work with integrated 
communication channels and clear object ownership rules, rather than regimented 
and inflexible workflow tools? 

How much visibility might workers want into their colleagues' activities and 
workflow contributions? What value could this visibility provide? 

How might separate workflow views for different contributors drive desirable 
simplicity and decreased learning effort? 

How might your team's sketched workflow functionalities support interpersonal 
interaction and communication at key junctures? 

What role could flexibility and customization play in your workflow concepts? 

At what point might desirable variabilities challenge the usefulness and viability 
of standardized workflow functionality? 

What impact could extensive workflow offerings have on the larger conceptual 
and interaction models of your sketched products? 

How might your team's approaches for standardized workflows relate to your 
functionality concepts supporting permissions, identity tailored views, cooperation, 
collaboration, and workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B3, B5, C, D, E, FI, Kl, K3, M 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | C. ESTABLISHING AN APPLICATION FRAMEWORK 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


C7. Structural Support of Workspace Awareness 


Valuable functional support for cooperative or collaborative 
knowledge work activities may impact the larger structure of 
a computing tool. Product teams can envision pervasive cues 
within their application concepts that could highlight significant 
actions of other users acting in the same “workspace.” 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect knows that one pane in her building modeling application contains a 
variety of information about what her collaborators are doing in the same project 
file. She uses this pane to understand who is working in the same building areas 
that she is, as well as to see who is available for conversation (see illustration). 

A financial trader learns that a certain area of his trading application will visually 
indicate when another trader is acting on the same information that he is. This 
notification allows traders to prevent discoordination by initiating discussions about 
their current work. 

A scientist knows that any time she looks at individual items in her analysis applica- 
tion, such as samples within a clinical study, a specific area of the screen will notify 
her of related actions being performed by other members of her lab. Also, when she 
first logs into the application, a special "welcome" display summarizes key changes 
that have been made to lab data since she the last time she accessed the tool. 

Knowledge workers are often highly skilled at understanding how their own actions fit 
into the context of cooperative and collaborative activities in their organizations. Com- 
puters can have dramatic impacts on this understanding. For example, when interactive 
applications become a key focus of work practice, implicit visibility and communication 
(Jl) that was once tied to the physical performance of work can easily become hidden 
or entirely lost (G4). 

Product teams can envision structural cues that could promote useful types of work- 
space awareness across the range of tasks and larger activities that they are striving to 
support (A7, C). An application's larger framework can include functionality for contact 
facilitation (J4) and other features that highlight shared opportunities or potential 
conflicts within a networked environment (B7, J5, H3). These structural responses can 
dramatically impact a product's conceptual models (Cl), interaction model (C2), 
and permissions functionalities (C5). 

When product teams do not actively consider how workspace awareness could be 
incorporated into an application concept's cross functional framework, opportunities to 
promote cooperation and collaboration can be lost. Even though envisioning workspace 
awareness on a function by function basis can solve individual collaboration issues (G4), 
without structural support, collaborators may find that they have difficulty planning 
larger activities (D2, D3), communicating effectively (J), distributing effort (E), and pre- 
venting conflicts (C9, G3). 

Conversely, too much visibility into the actions of others can be distracting (D4) and 
can potentially lead to unwanted surveillance effects (A2, G7). 

See also: A, B, FI, G, H, J2, J3, K, Ml 


My building modeling 
application always lets 
me see at a glance 
what my colleagues 
are working on, 
without going out of 
my way to look... 



Architect 


For example, I generally 
know what's going on with 
Jane, who is another 
architect on our team... 



□ 


. 



=□ 


■ — u 


s — 


\ 


"Hallway" checked out by Jane Yu 



V. 


J 


A SELECTION OF 
AWARENESS CUES 
AND INFORMATION 


/ — 



> 


Jane Yu 

Online - Editing 
"Hallway" - Main Version 

L 



V. 


The accumulation of these little clues really 
changes the amount we have to communicate, 
as well as the topics that our team talks about 
when we do chat face to face... 


What structural, application level approaches might your team 
envision to allow targeted knowledge workers to stay usefully 
and meaningfully aware of others’ actions within the same data 
locale? What might these awarenesses feel like in practice? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently keep track of their colleagues' actions as part 
of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How, specifically, do current forms of shared awareness promote the effective 
execution of loosely coordinated or truly collaborative work? How do they prevent 
conflicts? 

What breakdowns currently occur due to insufficient awareness? Could these 
problems present opportunities for your product? 

Where might the introduction of your team's computing tool remove implicit and 
subtle awareness cues from targeted work practices? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
workers might remain appropriately aware of others' actions within your application 
concepts? 

How might your sketched application frameworks aid workers by providing valuable 
workspace awareness cues at a structural level, across various functional areas? 

What types of actions in your product's shared workspaces could be tied to 
stronger, attention grabbing cues? To weaker, almost subliminal, cues? 

Who needs to see various cues? How might awareness information relate to 
individuals' permissions and tailored views? 

At what point might users of your computing tool face information overload from 
awareness cues? When might it be more appropriate to tie workspace awareness 
to individual functions and contextual areas, rather than your tool's overarching 
structure? 

How long should specific awareness cues last in your application's framework? 

How might they be tied to longer term, stored histories for certain functions and 
interaction objects? 

What impact could overarching awareness functionality have on the larger 
conceptual and interaction models of your sketched products? 

What unwanted surveillance effects could unintentionally occur from broadcasting 
specific actions to other workers? 

How might any standards set by your structural workspace awareness designs 
influence your team's envisioning of awareness cues within individual functionality 
concepts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | C. ESTABLISHING AN APPLICATION FRAMEWORK 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


C8. Defaults, Customization, and Automated Tailoring 


Knowledge workers may want to make persistent changes 
to default settings in order to tailor how they interact with 
a computing tool. Product teams can endeavor to create 
useful defaults; provide clear, consistent, and direct means of 
changing them; and consider scenarios for useful automation 
around some setting changes. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist modifies a certain parameter to influence how her analysis application 
will automatically compute a derived clinical variable. After double checking the 
effects of this parameter change within her most commonly used visualizations and 
procedures, she sets the modified value as the default setting for all new studies 

(see illustration). 

An architect finds that the input settings of a drawing tool in her building modeling 
application are making some parts of her work unnecessarily painstaking. She navi- 
gates to a single screen that contains all of her application preference settings and 
decreases the particular tool's sensitivity to input. 

A financial trader updates important automation defaults in his trading application 
that dictate how the computing tool will adaptively fill in proposed information 
under different circumstances. 

In specialized products for knowledge work, a single parameter can make or break the 
effectiveness of an entire system. Product teams can envision default settings for their 
interactive applications that are optimized to cover the most common scenarios of use 
(A4) or the broadest variety of work practice (A6, A7, A8). 

When default settings have the potential to shape workers' interactions or outcomes 
in ways that are not in alignment with their goals, applications can provide customiza- 
tion functionality that allows for local modification of key parameters (C5, F8). Prod- 
uct teams can envision these customizations at the level of individual workers, larger 
groups, or entire organizations (BIO). 

In carefully selected cases, workers may appreciate suggested or automated tailoring 
of settings (E3) based on their logged behaviors within an application. To avoid confu- 
sion, definers and designers can envision ways to clearly communicate these adaptive 
changes (B6, Fll, H4) as well as provide methods to easily reinstate earlier values (E6). 

When product teams do not sufficiently consider the potential role of defaults, custom- 
ization, and automated tailoring, resulting computing tools may not be suitably con- 
figured or configurable for the particulars of knowledge work. Opportunities for close 
alignment with work practices can be lost, and individuals may struggle through their 
adoption experiences (K), potentially creating and enacting excessively effortful work 
arounds (D2, D3). 

Conversely, extensive changes to defaults may reduce representational common ground 
between workers (FI, J2) that is often needed for effective communication (J) and 
collaboration (B7, C7, G4). 


Our analysis applica- 
tion has certain 
defaults in the way 
it computes clinical 
result values... 



I'm changing one of those 
defaults, because our lab 
is finding that the software 
is consistently computing a 
certain variable too low 
when compared to our 
instrument readings... 


And I'm having a look at 
what that change does... 


Since it looks like the new 
setting is working the way 
I want it to, I'll save that 
new setting as the default 
for any and all analyses 
that we create in the 
future... 




How might your team clarify and reduce the effort needed to 
understand and set important parameters in your application 
concepts? How could the interplay of appropriate default 
values, manual customization, and automated tailoring enhance 
your product’s effectiveness across a breadth of targeted 
contexts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which variabilities in the operations, tasks, or larger activities that your team is 
striving to mediate might lead to a genuine need for customization options? 

Which default settings in your team's application concepts will individuals and 
organizations expect to have some control over? Why? 

Which settings stand out as pivotal in your team's sketched ideas for work 
mediation? Which will probably not capture workers' interests and may only 
be accessed rarely, if at all? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about 
defaults and local tailoring of settings within your computing tool? 

Which defaults in your application concepts could be optimized by covering the 
most common scenarios of use in targeted organizations? 

Which defaults might be better optimized by considering the broadest variety 
of work practice? 

Which parameters might be impossible for your team to set defaults for without 
local input from individual workers or their organizations? 

Where could automated tailoring of settings be appropriate, useful, and clearly 
executed? Might it be more appropriate for such automations to suggest changes 
that workers could then select as customizations? 

How might the scope of a single setting change apply to individual workers, larger 
groups, or entire organizations? 

How could a central area for settings changes within your application's framework 
enhance the clarity of related tasks? 

How might new or unexpected changes to defaults be flagged and meaningfully 
communicated? 

What negative impacts could changes to defaults have on cooperative and 
collaborative work? How might these impacts be mitigated? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C, F, I, Kll, M4 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | C. ESTABLISHING AN APPLICATION FRAMEWORK 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


C9. Error Prevention and Handling Conventions 


To ensure that potential errors in mediated knowledge work 
are preempted and managed in a consistent and appropriate 
manner, product teams can develop internal conventions for 
their application concepts. These standards can promote 
learnability, usability, and implementation efficiencies. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader notices and appreciates the different ways that his trading ap- 
plication prevents him from making errors during the course of his typically hectic 
day. For example, the tool presents small, informative flags as he enters problematic 
data so that he can make corrections in real time. And, when he tries to complete 
an action that does not match established business rules, the tool overlays clear, 
cautionary messages with suggestions for action (see illustration). 

An architect has learned that her building modeling application provides constraints 
on her actions that prevent her from making errors in a categorical variety of ways, 
whether she is "sculpting" the shapes of a building design or entering data about 
the properties of a particular onscreen object. 

A scientist wants clear, highly visible messages in her analysis application that 
prevent her from making predictable and common data entry mistakes while she 
creates new studies. However, for any tasks that involve exploring her lab's clinical 
data, she only wants messaging of possible errors, without any hard limitations on 
her actions. 

Within the complex mental operations and symbolic abstraction of computer medi- 
ated work practices, we can safely assume that people will make errors (G3). The best 
envisioning response to a recognized possibility for user error is often to design away 
the conditions under which it might arise. 

In cases where there are conflicting requirements and high flexibility needs, product 
teams may find it difficult to prevent errors strictly by envisioning behavioral constraints 
in their functionality concepts. Teams can meaningfully categorize these stubborn 
error cases, based on their severities and interaction consistencies (A4). They can then 
envision patterns for error prevention and handling to apply throughout their sketched 
application concepts (C3, E3, F10). 

Teams can choose many of these patterns from among the error conventions that are 
commonly used in contemporary interface design (D7, L2). Some products may contain 
unusual, domain specific error classes (A) that could benefit from ideation of novel, 
tailored patterns or display formats (F). 

When product teams do not actively consider potential conventions for preventing 
and handling errors, resulting inconsistencies (K13) may frustratingly hinder a worker's 
ability to effectively accomplish important goals (LI). People may have more difficultly 
learning such applications (D4, K5, K6, K7) and recovering from mistakes made while us- 
ing them. Additionally, their perceptions of product quality and utility may decline (K12) 
as they create and enact defensive work arounds (D2, D3), such as active versioning of 
valued content (HI). 


Traders have fat fingers 
like everyone else using 
a computer, and this 
trading software steps 
in to help prevent all 
sorts of problems in a 
predictable way... 


Financial 

Trader 



Like if I'm typing a price 
wrong, this tool doesn't 
let me get too far before 
telling me about it... 


Which looks similar to the 
very useful message that 
comes up if I'm entering a 
quantity for a security that 
exceeds our holdings... 


Which is similar to the 
error stopper that appears 
when a trade ticket's 
contents happen to go 
against the complex mesh 
of no-trade rules that our 
group is always updating... 


□□□□□□ 


□ = 



□ 


J 


□□□□□□ 


□ 


& 


□ 


J 



Looking across the functionality concepts in your team’s 
sketched application possibilities, what common classes of 
error situations might you identify? What interaction patterns 
could consistently and appropriately prevent or handle each of 
these error classes? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What error scenarios are targeted individuals currently concerned with in the 
operations, tasks, and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? Why? 

How do they currently prevent and handle these errors? Could these situations 
present opportunities for your product? 

Where might the introduction of your team's computing tool create new 
possibilities for human error in targeted work practices? 

How might you divide up the pool of potential error scenarios that you have 
identified into meaningful classes? How could different approaches and 
perspectives on this categorization provide insights? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about 
preventing and handling classes of errors within your computing tool? 

What existing conventions, from a broad selection of interaction patterns in 
contemporary computing, are most relevant to the error classes and categories 
that your team has identified? 

What domain specific error scenarios might present opportunities for your team 
to envision useful and specialized error prevention or handling conventions? 

How could different levels of error severity be clearly and consistently 
communicated throughout your application concepts? 

What special standards might your team envision to prevent critical errors in highly 
directive ways? On the other side of the spectrum, what classes of errors do not 
require such strict prevention and should leave users in the locus of control? 

How might these internally consistent standards become a complementary element 
of your product's larger aesthetic direction and brand? What tone and appearance 
could be most appropriate for these textual and visual languages? 

How might your sketched error management standards relate to, or even establish, 
the pattern language of a broader family of products in your firm? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B6, C, E6, H2, H3, J4, J5, K5, M 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | C. ESTABLISHING AN APPLICATION FRAMEWORK 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


CIO. Predictable Application States 


High level state information can allow knowledge workers to as- 
sess whether an application is functioning properly, decide what 
avenues of action are currently available to them, and plan the 
ongoing flow of their efforts. Product teams can envision clearly 
defined, appropriately simple, and well communicated overall 
states for their computing tools. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist knows that some options in her analysis application are unavailable 
during intensive automated processes, such as importing large clinical data sets or 
running extensive analyses. Since the actions that are currently available during 
different states are always obvious, it is easy for her to figure out what work she can 
accomplish while the product is processing complex requests (see illustration). 

An architect indirectly learns all of the states of her building modeling application 
during the course a single project. She now knows that the tool behaves in special 
ways when it is, for example, opening a building model, creating a detailed render- 
ing, displaying problematic areas of a design, or as occasionally happens, experienc- 
ing technical difficulties. 

A financial trader expects his trading application to run at top speed whenever he 
turns to use it. If an issue does arise within the product's operations, he wants the 
tool to be "smart" enough to detect the problem as soon as possible and then tell 
his team what to do about it. 

With limited processing resources, network constraints, and other technical bottle- 
necks, many computer mediated processes in knowledge work are inevitably experi- 
enced as something slower than real time responsiveness (E3, E4). For example, users 
of an application may quickly learn that their valued tool needs to extensively initialize 
when it is launched and take time to save settings (C8) when work is concluded. 

Deliberate, controlled pauses in interaction can also be implemented by design. At cer- 
tain times, actions may be disabled within an application (C4) as a means of preventing 
errors (C9, G3) or directing workers toward certain responses. 

Product teams can envision appropriate states for their application concepts with an 
intentional focus on clarity and simplification. Workers do not typically need to be 
aware of many of the internal, "behind the scenes" conditions of their computing tools 
(K10, Kll). Instead, teams can focus on identifying application states that could directly 
influence the flow of work activity (D4), such as conditions tied to crucial error cases 
or lengthy processes where indication of progress could be useful (E5, F6, K4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how to define and effectively communi- 
cate application states, resulting products may cause confusion as workers attempt to 
translate their goals into situated actions or longer term plans (D3). When computing 
tools present vague or confusing states, users may have difficulty developing useful 
expectations (D2, K2, K6, K7) as well as accurate conceptual models of how a tool 
essentially works (Cl). 

See also: A, B5, C, D6, D7, F10, H2 


I've received a large 
amount of data from 
another lab, and I'm 
going to use my 
analysis application 
to import it into 
one of our lab's 
databases... 



And while I'm importing 
that data, the software 
has a message open at the 
bottom, which tells me 
that I can't make changes 
to any other data that I 
already have open... 


I can still visualize it and 
zoom around to look at all 
that currently open data... 


But if I find anything, 

I can't really save it as 
interesting or reanalyze it 
with a different rule set, 
because that involves 
changing the information 
in the database that's 
already being updated... 


d 



Importing Data ■■■■□□□□□□□ 

J 



QIQ OiO O r D.O 0 0 : DO D 0 D: □ D □. 0. □ 3H 

nnnnrrnnnrnr"Hnnnnnn 


m 


Data Import in Progress 

I 

I 


— ■■■■□□□□□□□ 


: c 


Uru LJUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU 

ODQiDOOODDOnDaOOaiOOD 




fit 

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fl[ 


if™ 


What useful or necessary overall states might your team 
envision for your application concepts (e.g. starting, loading, 
normal, critical error)? How might these states consistently 
communicate how your tool is currently operating, what it can 
currently be used to accomplish, and when, if applicable, its 
state will likely change again? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What technical limitations might your team's computing tool face when it is run 
on the available infrastructures of targeted organizations? 

How might integration into other systems, or use of networked resources, affect 
goals of near real time responsiveness? 

What interaction cases, looking across the breadth of your sketched functionality 
concepts, might benefit from an application state that could appropriately direct 
users' actions? 

Which interactions or automated processes in your sketched functionality concepts 
are likely to require processing time that workers will probably experience as a 
period of waiting? 

What critical errors could become default application states by blocking action until 
they are resolved? 

What set of high level states could comprehensively cover key scenarios in your 
team's application concepts? 

How much detail is too much detail when considering your list of application 
states? When might several states that are namable and very different from your 
team's own perspective be better presented to your product's users as a single state 
category? 

How might simplicity in application states promote more accurate conceptual 
models of your computing tool? 

What interactive pathways, due to technical requirements or defined constraints 
in work processes, could need to be disabled during certain states? 

How might application state information be communicated both in your product's 
overall framework and as part of certain functionality concepts? 

Where might these state categories become too confining for variable work 
practices? How might constraining states be eliminated through redesign of your 
sketched interaction models? 

Which state categories could be more appropriately envisioned at the level of 
interaction objects rather than presiding at the application level? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D. Considering Workers’ Attentions 


Valued computing tools can desirably “fit” 
into the flow of thinking work: easing burdens, 
removing distractions, and allowing people to 
focus on challenging problems. 

Designing for such a compelling pairing 
requires a careful examination of current and 
potential demands on peoples’ attention. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can evaluate and explore how their sketched 
offerings might impact the allocation and 
sequence of knowledge workers’ efforts. 

By taking time to explore the topic of attention 
related needs and goals, teams can highlight 
opportunities to tailor and extend their 
products in truly useful and humane ways. 


In many professions, knowledge workers' attentions can be stretched to their proverbial 
limits by multiple threads of activity and steady streams of interruptions. To be success- 
ful in their chosen vocations, workers may become skilled at estimating the effort that 
incoming work items will require, attending to pressing items, setting aside less urgent 
needs, and recognizing opportunities to delegate work or otherwise make it less time 
consuming. 

The overall "load" placed upon workers' emotions and cognitive abilities can be a seri- 
ous consideration for the design of interactive applications. The stress involved in some 
knowledge work professions has been tied to health problems in the people that prac- 
tice them. While poorly designed onscreen applications can be obvious contributors 
to this stress, even carefully designed products, in conjunction with related workplace 
demands, can require taxing levels of concentration that may be difficult to effectively 
sustain. 

Although many product teams may briefly discuss the limitations of hypothetical users' 
attentions when they evaluate detailed design options, they may be less likely to do 
so when considering their products' overarching design strategies and possible design 
directions. Without these early discussions about potential influences on knowledge 
workers' concentrations and mental efforts, teams may not recognize certain oppor- 
tunities to thoughtfully shape their design concepts around important attentional con- 
siderations — until after workers have actually adopted resulting products and begin 
asking for certain types of improvements. 

This category contains 7 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Dl. Respected tempos of work 
D2. Expected effort 

D3. Current workload, priority of work, and opportunity costs 

D4. Minimizing distraction and fostering concentration 

D5. Resuming work 

D6. Alerting and reminding cues 

D7. Eventual habit and automaticity 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore potential roles for their computing tools 
in the ongoing flow of knowledge workers' attentions. Ideation around workers' at- 
tentional demands in specific situations can help teams establish key design constraints 
and drive exploration of appropriate design responses. It can also allow teams to un- 
cover opportunities to reduce attention related burdens through targeted automation 
functionalities. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A), "Providing opportunities to offload effort" (E), "Clari- 
fying central interactions" (G), and "Promoting integration into work practice" (K) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


D1 . Respected Tempos of Work 


Knowledge work can have implicit paces and timings, based 
in part on workers’ inherent mental and physical limitations as 
human beings. By exploring potential changes to the pacing 
of individual tasks and extended activities, product teams can 
meaningfully envision how their interactive applications might 
impact important tempos in workers’ practices. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader follows a very similar schedule on most every working day. Dur- 
ing large parts of this daily routine, he has the potential to be overwhelmed with a 
steady stream of incoming, discrete decision tasks, most of which are facilitated by 
his high performance computing tools (see illustration). 

An architect's projects typically span over months or, more commonly, years. Her 
work days are often long, with a sustained intensity level that often leads her to feel 
hurried as she switches between very different tasks during different project phases. 

A scientist is under pressure to quickly understand clinical data in order to deliver 
exacting discoveries— a "quickness" that she feels on very different time scales. She 
appropriates whatever computing tools she can to clarify the big pictures of her 
lab's experimental outputs, while at the same time dealing with a myriad of time 
sensitive details that are needed to keep her studies running effectively. 

Recurring tempos in knowledge work can arise from a variety of factors to become an 
essential aspect of workers' experiences (A, Gl). Expectations for tempos can be set by 
professional standards, by specific organizations or communities of practice (A7, A8), 
and by individual knowledge workers, who may establish rhythms to bring their efforts 
into both internal and external equilibriums. 

Product teams can model how established tempos in knowledge work nest into one 
another, run in parallel threads, or interrupt each other (A5). They can identify tempos 
in specific practices, tempos in daily cycles, unique tempos for individual roles, and 
collective tempos across the course of longer term, shared goals within an organization. 

Interactive applications can have major impacts on existing tempos, to both positive 
and negative effect. As workers adopt a computing tool (K), they may compare the 
rhythms implied by its pathways to their own expectations and preferences. Valued 
automation of time consuming and tedious work (E3, E4) can contribute to a positive 
evaluation. Products that force unwanted changes in tempos without supporting a 
worker's internal locus of control (E6) may contribute to a negative impression, as well 
as a sustained elevation in stress level. 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could in- 
fluence existing tempos in knowledge work practices, they run the risk of creating tools 
that are out of step with users' desires and needs. Resulting applications may "push" 
workers through processes too quickly (C6), or perhaps more commonly, enforce in- 
teraction pathways that are too slow and extended relative to conventional or desired 
pacing (C4, D3, D4). 


My work has a definite 
rhythm to it that 
actually helps me to 
think more clearly... 

During the really busy 
times, I won't use any 
part of my software 
that slows me down... 

Financial 

Trader 


In the morning, trading 
volume can be high as 
everyone comes in and 
trades on new information 
from after the closing bell 
of the previous day... 


Toward the end of the day, 
when the market is 
moving fast before closing 
time, I really need my 
tools to respond rapidly 
and to understand what I 
want to do... 


See also: D, C8, E5, Jl, J3, K6, Kl, K13, Ml, M4 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


56 




MORNING ( 


O 

O 


Q£ 

U 

1/1 


1/1 

O 
I — 
O 
< 
cc 


O 

C£L 

LU 

CD 

=) 


How could the interactive flow of your team’s application 
concepts desirably reflect the inherent pacing of targeted 
knowledge work practices, rather than force unwanted slowing 
or acceleration in users’ experiences? Where might positive 
shifts be possible? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What tempos are currently found within the tasks and larger activities that your 
team is striving to mediate? 

How did these tempos originate? What factors have perpetuated them? 

How can certain paces and timings in different threads of knowledge work nest 
and interrelate? 

What drives current variabilities in tempo? What impacts can individual differences, 
workers' roles, or specific organizational approaches have? 

Where do conflicts sometimes occur due to misunderstandings around tempo? 
When and why do collaborators become "out of step"? Could these current 
problems present opportunities for your team's product? 

What do individuals and organizations think of current tempos in targeted work 
practices? What parts of their work would they like to slow down or speed up? 
Why? 

What positive or negative impacts might your sketched application concepts have 
on various tempos? What problematic changes seem sufficiently possible to imply 
that your team may want to redesign related functionalities? 

How might the inherent tempos of your sketched functionality concepts be received 
by an aging knowledge workforce? 

What interactivity and design communication could positively influence workers' 
perceptions of elapsed time during their experiences with your team's computing 
tool? 

How might positive changes in targeted tempos factor into your product's brand? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


END OF DAY 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D2. Expected Effort 


Knowledge workers develop useful expectations about how 
much time and attention is required to successfully accomplish 
different operations, tasks and larger activities. Product teams 
can envision functionality concepts that could either meet or 
exceed these expectations, providing justifications of sufficient 
value whenever onscreen tools happen to require more work 
instead of less. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect expects the act of grouping elements together within her building 
modeling application to be rapid and direct. She is surprised when she is prompted 
to specify seemingly unimportant information about a grouping before she can 
proceed with unifying it (see illustration). 

A financial trader "test driving" a new trading application expects the optimal path- 
ways for certain common tasks to be as fast as they are in the tool that he currently 
uses. His opinions about novel functionality are more open. 

A scientist, while specifying the attributes of several clinical samples in her lab's in- 
formation management application, is surprised by how quickly she is able to enter 
required and desired information for each sample. 

Knowledge workers often develop strong opinions about the time and attention 
requirements of specific work practices (A). Workers' abilities to make accurate estima- 
tions of effort can be considered a valued part of their expertise. Additionally, experi- 
enced individuals have often become highly skilled at completing some operations and 
tasks, allowing them to invest much less effort in these actions than new practitioners 
(D7, K6). 

Product teams can strive to make the amount of effort that workers expend in an 
interactive application feel congruent to the benefits that a tool provides in their work 
practices. People may expect some elements of their work to be less effortful after 
adopting computing tools (E, K), especially in tedious tasks that they find less engaging 
and valuable in the context of their larger goals (D3, D4). When the characteristics of a 
functionality concept result in workers needing to expend more effort than expected, 
teams can attempt to reframe users' expectations by communicating the value of these 
additional efforts (Cl, K2, K7). 

When product teams do not actively consider workers' expectations of effort in tar- 
geted operations, tasks, and larger activities, resulting applications may contain interac- 
tions that users view as too difficult or demanding. Especially when extra effort does 
not provide understood and compelling value, workers may believe that these tools are 
based on a faulty understanding of their needs (A4, K3). They may also feel that time 
spent on inappropriately effortful tasks stressfully detracts from more important work 
outcomes (LI). 

Conversely, applications can force too much streamlining of work, removing certain 
interactions and awarenesses that individuals enjoy or value in a practical sense (C6). 

See also: BIO, C4, C8, D, G, Jl, K8, K9, Ml, M4 


I'm going to group 
some separate parts 
together into a single 
part, because I want 
them to always appear 
as one thing... 



Architect 


So I've got the pieces 
selected, and I'm opting to 
group them into a 
collective object in the 
building model... 


And the application wants 
me to fill out all this info 
about different properties, 
which really doesn't seem 
necessary to me... 


I guess that the info could 
be useful later, when I 
have these things all over 
the building model, but I'm 
not sure that it's worth 
doing those steps every 
time I want to create a 
new a grouped object... 







What expectations of effort do targeted knowledge workers 
have in the specific areas of work practice that your team is 
targeting? Which of your team’s functionality concepts will 
likely “beat” those expectations? Which might be perceived 
as problematically effortful to use? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How much effort do targeted workers currently spend on the specific operations, 
tasks, and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? What benchmarks 
do they use? 

What do targeted individuals and organizations think of these current levels of 
effort? 

Do people find any of their current work practices to be repetitive or tedious? 

What practices do knowledge workers not want to change, despite high effort 
requirements? Why? 

What general expectations do workers have about the impact of computing tools 
on the effort needed to accomplish their workplace goals? 

How do expectations of effort vary across targeted individuals, roles, organizations, 
and other factors? 

Which of your functionality concepts will likely be recognized as significantly 
reducing effort in certain activity contexts? Is this a compelling value proposition? 

Where might workers accept additional effort in a new computing tool if it was seen 
as providing additional value? How could that value tradeoff be embodied and 
communicated in your sketched functional offerings? 

What design approaches might make work feel like it is taking less effort than it 
actually is? What advanced analogies to other products and domains could inform 
your team's ideas about reducing perceived effort? 

How might your scenarios for desirable reductions in effort factor into the story of 
your product's brand? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D3. Current Workload, Priority of Work, and Opportunity Costs 


Knowledge work often involves pools of collected work items 
that can be generated by workers for themselves or can arrive 
via structured handoffs and other communications. Product 
teams can envision features that could support workers as they 
strive to understand their current workload, assign priorities, 
and then focus their efforts on certain items. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist views a list of all of the experiments that have been recently run for a 
clinical study, narrowing in on the items that require her approval in order for their 
results to be copied to her lab's analysis database. She scans the list and chooses to 
review samples from the most interesting experimental group first (see illustration). 

A financial trader visually scans a list of offers in his trading application. The trading 
day is almost over, and since he has been repeatedly distracted by some interesting 
incoming offers, he decides to work only on trades that match the priority list that 
his group made this morning, before the markets opened. 

An architect has been assigned a long list of areas in a building model that she 
needs to detail out within her building modeling application. She decides to get 
started on those areas of the draft model that other members of her team will be 
working spatially adjacent to soon, leaving a number of messages and notifications 
unviewed until she has made some initial progress. 

Knowledge workers are often passionate about accomplishing certain goals in their 
chosen vocations. These goals can range from macro, extended visions to micro, day 
to day intents. When faced with time limitations and decisions about what work to 
accomplish next, individuals may prioritize their options and weigh the opportunity 
costs of taking certain courses of action (Dl, D4). Alternately, they may choose their 
next task based on proven heuristics. 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could valuably support aware- 
ness and critical decision making around users' workloads. For example, interactive 
applications can generate tailored information representations (E3, E4, F) that organize 
current work items (C5). These manipulable views (12, 13) can increase the perceptual 
salience of time sensitive items and demote lower priority options based on their 
defined states (B5, B6). Once users choose a work item to pursue, applications can 
provide them with direct pathways to relevant actions (C4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could 
influence knowledge workers' management of their own workloads, resulting tools can 
force users to spend additional time planning and tracking their efforts (D2). Without 
appropriate information displays, workers may overlook high priority needs, potentially 
resulting in timing errors and lost opportunities (C9, G3). Similarly, coop- erative and 
collaborative work can also be affected when multiple workers struggle to understand 
the scope of work items that require, or could benefit from, their attentions 
(B7, C7, G4). 

See also: A, D, E, G5, 14, K13, Ml, M4 


I need to check on the 
"fresh" data coming 
from our lab to see 
what my upcoming 
analysis workload is 
looking like... 



So I'm choosing to view all 
of this data by whether it's 
been approved yet... 


And there's a few new 
items here that the tool is 
calling out as needing my 
approval before they can 
go on to our vetted, high 
quality analysis database.. 


/ i=i — □□□ □□□□□□ □□ 
— - | — | □□ □□□□□ □□ 



\ 



I'm excited to get a first 
look at data from this one 
experimental group, so I'm 
digging into that one first... 



How might your team’s functionality concepts allow targeted 
knowledge workers to assess the workload that is currently 
“on their plate,” prioritize what they want to accomplish, hide 
or remove what they do not want to address, and work on 
selected items until their “plate is clean”? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently assess their workload while accomplishing 
the practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do knowledge workers and organizations keep track of the larger picture of 
their collective activities, instead of focusing only on granular tasks? 

Where do various work items arrive from? How do colleagues and collaborators 
stay aligned around each others' progress? 

How do workers establish priorities? How do they assess the potential opportunity 
costs of addressing certain work items at the expense of others? Do these decisions 
follow established procedures or are they typically based more on impromptu 
judgments? 

What breakdowns currently occur in these decision making tasks? Could these 
problems present opportunities for your team's product? 

What factors can change the priority of a work item? How do people "shift gears" 
to address high priority work? 

What currently happens to completed items in order to remove them from workers' 
proverbial "plates" so that they can focus on needs that have yet to be addressed? 

What larger design trends and advanced analogies to other domains could influence 
your team's ideas about thoughtfully facilitating these decisions and actions? 

What functionality concepts might your team sketch with the goal of supporting 
workers' existing practices for assessing workload, assigning priorities, and 
understanding opportunity costs? 

What additional challenges and possibilities for managing workload could your 
computing tool present? 

How might volumes of data be meaningfully displayed in ways that could allow 
workers to better focus their time and attention? How could defined object states 
serve as a basis for clearly communicating present work needs? 

How might your team's ideas about comprehensible onscreen workloads relate 
to your other design responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of 
information? 

How might your application concepts provide additional support in these areas for 
an aging knowledge workforce? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D4. Minimizing Distraction and Fostering Concentration 


Knowledge workers are often interrupted from the immersive 
flows of their own practices, and some of these interruptions 
may undesirably pull them away from valued actions and 
outcomes. Product teams can envision their functionality 
concepts with the intention of minimizing unnecessary 
distractions and other obstacles to workers’ concentrated 
engagement in their present goals. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader quickly books a peak number of trades, using multiple communi- 
cation channels in parallel. While he can always access what he needs to make these 
important deals, his trading application does not interrupt him with certain types of 
new information until he has completed a long series of trade forms 

(see illustration). 

A scientist performs early explorations of a large clinical data set in her analysis 
application. Since she is just getting a sense for the data's overall "shape," she 
selects a calm and minimal browsing mode that turns off certain dynamic features 
that she sometimes finds distracting. 

An architect has completed a set of construction details in her building modeling 
application, after working on them for a couple of hours. While she waits for the 
tool to merge her relevant local files with the master building model, several lower 
priority notifications, which had been withheld while she was actively working, 
appear on her screen. 

The multipurpose nature of many computing technologies creates opportunities for 
diverse distractions that can contribute to or interfere with people accomplishing their 
goals (A). While productive interruptions can include informal collaboration with col- 
leagues (A7, C7, G4) and other timely communication (J), unwanted distractions can 
include uninformative messages (D6) and the sudden intervention of unpredictable 
processes (Cl, G3, K5). 

Product teams can identify parts of their sketched functionality concepts where certain 
distractions might be damaging. They can then envision defensive approaches that are 
tailored to these behavioral situations (D5, D6). As part of fostering concentration in at- 
tention intensive work, applications can promote the direct sense that workers' actions 
are tightly coupled to interactive results (B3, Gl). This coupling can contribute to what 
the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described as absorbing "flow experiences" 
(K13). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts might 
encourage productive concentration, opportunities to promote focused and engaging 
user experiences can be lost. Resulting tools may contain a multitude of low value dis- 
tractions that create ongoing stress (E6, Dl), are difficult for workers to accommodate 
to (D2, D7), and can detract from the quality and quantity of work outcomes (D3, LI). 

Conversely, if product teams take minimizing "unwanted" distractions too far, they may 
rule out high value functionality in the name of taming complexity. 



I am just about finished 
booking the deals 
that I have been focusing 
on for the last few 
minutes... 


And now that I haven't got 
any trade tickets open, 
the software is giving me 
some alerts that were not 
top priority while I was 
completing other deals... 


It looks like there are 
a couple of items from our 
preferred firms that I 
should take care of next... 




T 


Current Alerts 


Preferred Firm Message 


Preferred Firm Message 


Where might your team’s application concepts introduce 
unwanted distractions into targeted workers’ practices? 

How could your sketched functionalities reduce unwanted 
interference while allowing for useful interruptions that may 
enhance productivity and quality in knowledge work? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What interruptions do targeted individuals currently experience in the work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

Which interruptions do knowledge workers value as contributing to their larger 
goals? 

What distractions can have negative impacts on work outcomes? How strongly 
do people feel about these outside forces? 

Which work practices can require intensive concentration? 

Which tasks or larger activities currently allow workers to experience a satisfying 
sense of engagement under certain conditions? 

Which interruptions frequently lead to observable errors or reduce the quality and 
quantity of workers' outputs? Could these problems present opportunities for your 
team's product? 

What strategies do targeted workers currently use to try to minimize unwanted 
distractions? 

How might your team's sketched application concepts influence workers' current 
experiences of distraction and engagement? 

What undesirable distractions could your computing tool introduce? What 
approaches might your team envision to limit or eliminate these factors within 
your sketched scenarios for work mediation? 

How might your application concepts promote and enhance existing forms of 
engagement in workers' experiences? How might your sketched functionalities 
desirably introduce this type of engagement into other practices? 

How could your team's offering present calming "environments" for workers to act 
within, while at the same time usefully directing their attentions with relevant and 
appropriately weighted perceptual cues? 

Where could interactions in your product meaningfully promote a strong sense 
of direct, tightly coupled connection with onscreen objects? 

How might your application concepts provide additional support in these areas 
for an aging knowledge workforce? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: C8, C9, E, F9, K3, K6, K8, K10, Ml 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D5. Resuming Work 


Knowledge workers’ activities often span more than one work 
day. Within a given day, individuals may shift their attentions 
back and forth among several different threads of work. 

To reduce the effort needed to effectively resume previous 
threads, product teams can envision useful cues that could 
prompt workers’ recollections and outline current conditions 
within a shared workspace. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist arrives at her clinical lab and launches her analysis application. She 
selects the option to resume working on the last project that she had open, and 
the application displays every element of her view just as she had left it, including 
a reminder that she had entered to tell herself what to do next (see illustration). 

An architect logs out of her building modeling application so that she can attend 
a meeting, knowing that the exact same view, along with a message about her 
colleagues' current project tasks, will be called up when she logs back in after the 
meeting is over. 

A financial trader leaves an incomplete trade form open in his trading application 
while he books a more time sensitive deal. The half empty form serves as a remind- 
er about the unfinished trade and allows him to quickly resume the task later. 

It can be difficult for knowledge workers to "get back into" interrupted efforts, even 
after relatively short breaks. Relevant cognitive states do not reappear at the flip of a 
proverbial switch, though recognizable external cues can help workers to appropriately 
return their attentions to where they had left off. 

In order to envision valuable functional responses for resuming work, product teams 
can examine certain tasks and larger activities through the lens of potential inter- 
ruptions (A, C5). At an application level, products can "remember" the contents and 
arrangement of a display exactly as workers had left it (E3, E4, C4). Saved display states 
can also reappear contextually, when users reopen particular interaction objects that 
they had previously modified, for example (Bl, B2, Gl). Alternately, workers can choose 
to save explicit "bookmarks" that they can later return to (El, E2, HI). 

Stored historical traces of cooperative action can also be useful when resuming work 
(H2, B5). For example, in cases where colleagues have modified shared interaction 
objects that were previously in use (B6, H3), workers may benefit from a concise update 
on relevant changes that have been made in their absence (C7, G4, D6). 

When product teams do not actively consider how individuals might part from and 
return to different threads of knowledge work, resulting applications may force users to 
expend extra effort recalling and recreating where they had left off (D2, D3). In complex 
situations, people may make notable mistakes when attempting to get back into their 
previous states of focused attention (C9, G3). In response to these difficulties, individu- 
als may resort to workarounds, such as creating external memory aids at interruption 
points (H). 


After I've first sat 
down at the lab in 
the morning, I always 
look at our current 
data with fresh eyes 
to see if anything 
jumps out that I 
hadn't seen the 
day before... 



So I'm logging into our lab's 
analysis application... 



What could the experience be like when “stepping away” from, 
and then returning to, your team’s computing tool? How might 
your application concepts support targeted knowledge workers 
as they seek to invoke and reconstruct their previous mindsets 
in order to “pick up” where they had left off in their evolving 
activity contexts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How often do targeted individuals currently step away from and return to the work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What are some common scenarios for setting aside work? What do knowledge 
workers have to remember when resuming targeted tasks or larger activities? 

How does the structure of their environments currently help them to recall "their 
place"? 

What memory cues do they purposefully add for themselves? What other 
strategies do they employ to more quickly and accurately refocus their attentions 
on earlier threads? 

What errors can occur when workers resume previous efforts? Could these 
problems present opportunities for your team's product? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
your application concepts could support reconnection with work in progress? 

How might your team's sketched functionalities reduce the difficulty of returning 
to earlier threads of work? 



What application events, such as logging in or reopening a particular work item, 
could provide useful opportunities to implicitly recreate workers' views within your 
computing tool? 

What specific interaction objects or application level elements could be restored 
in ways that may remind workers' of "their place?" 

What explicit methods of bookmarking or otherwise cataloging work progress 
might workers find valuable? 

How might shared uses of application content present opportunities to valuably 
highlight important changes as workers' resume their "paused" efforts? 

How might your team's approaches for work resumption relate to your other 
concepts for supporting cognitive tracing, cooperation, collaboration, and 
workspace awareness? 

How might your application concepts provide additional support in these areas 
for an aging knowledge workforce? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B7, D, E, H4, J4, J5, K13 


And the software opens as if I had never left it, waiting for me 
to hopefully have some big insight into these results... 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


D6. Alerting and Reminding Cues 


Knowledge work often involves event driven signals and 
actions, which the boundaries of computing displays may hide 
from an application’s users. Product teams can envision timely 
and salient messaging that could reduce or eliminate the need 
for workers to continuously monitor for certain events that 
might impact the sequence or outcomes of their efforts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader, while analyzing a potential trade in his market information 
application, is presented with a message that reminds him that an earlier, unrelated 
offer is about to expire in his trading tool. The message also provides him with direct 
options to accept or decline the pending offer (see illustration). 

An architect receives a text message from her rendering application, which informs 
her that a lengthy image creation process has just been abandoned due to a critical 
error. She stops what she is doing to find a computer, log into the networked render- 
ing server, evaluate the incident, modify some settings, and restart the process. 

A scientist receives an alert from her lab's information management application 
that all of the samples for a clinical study have been processed and that the study's 
experimental data can now be analyzed. 

Actively attending to multiple threads of complex knowledge work at the same time 
— roughly speaking — can be mentally taxing, if not impossible. The ability to effective- 
ly monitor for key situations across more than one thread of work is often considered a 
useful and valued skill. 

Interactive applications with features that intensively support collaboration (B7, C7, G4) 
or automation (E) can change the nature of what it means to attend to conditional and 
time sensitive events. Maintaining diligent attention under these circumstances can be 
difficult for a variety of reasons, generally rooted in the sense that progressive disclo- 
sure can often effectively "hide" important realities. 

When it is not essential for knowledge workers to actively monitor a process, product 
teams can envision concepts for automated (E3, E4) alerting and reminding cues. Rel- 
evant, visible, and timely messages can usefully reduce or eliminate the need to remain 
vigilant for certain application (CIO) or object states (B5, B6). Similar to appropriate 
error messaging (C9, G3), teams can generate these notifications from a strong under- 
standing of workers' goals, avoiding unnecessary distraction (D4) and providing direct 
access to related actions (Gl, C4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could 
offload attentional effort through alerts and reminders, resulting tools may require 
workers to persistently attend to the presence or absence of certain cues in order to 
efficiently transition through their practices (A). Since these automated messages are 
commonly included in many genres of computing tools, workers may find vigilance 
tasks without these triggered notifications to be tiring and unnecessary user 
experiences (D2, D3). 

See also: C5, C8, D, E, H3, K7, K13 


I need to jump over 
to my market info 
application to see 
whether a deal is 
worth making... 



Just examining the data... 


And now there's a message 
from my trading tool 
letting me know that 
certain offers are about to 
expire... 


So I'm jumping over to my 
trading tool to take a look 
at this other deal while I 
still can... 



What events in your team’s application concepts will targeted 
knowledge workers likely want to know about and monitor 
for, either as insight into mediated work process or as event 
driven support for their own memories over time? How might 
the automated presentation of relevant messaging allow users 
to stay attuned to these events without maintaining vigilant 
attention for them? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently remind themselves of important, time 
sensitive information in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What conditions do they monitor for in their activity contexts? 

Which of the automated functionalities that your team has envisioned could 
potentially benefit from alert and reminder options? How might these options 
provide value by reducing or eliminating effort that would otherwise be needed 
to attend to your product's workings? 

What information and conditional events in your application concepts might 
workers like to have reminders about over time? How might they set up these 
memory supporting messages? 

What relative priorities could be appropriate for the different types of alerts 
and reminder messages that your team has sketched? 

How directive should various types of messages be? Which could be strictly 
informational? Which might workers need to actively address within a certain 
timeframe? 

How might lower priority alerting and reminding cues be presented at transitional 
"seams" between attention demanding tasks and larger activities? 

What communication channels could be most effective for delivering different types 
of alert and reminder content? Is notification within your computing tool enough? 

How could interrupting messages present related pathways of action so that 
targeted workers do not need to locate relevant navigation options? 

How might individual users customize their own alerts and reminders to call out 
those events that they value and to ignore those that they do not? 

How might these messages be experienced within groups of cooperating or actively 
collaborating workers? 

How might your team's approaches for alerts and reminders relate to your 
other concepts for supporting cognitive tracing, cooperation, collaboration, and 
workspace awareness? How could these messages relate with your product's error 
prevention and handling conventions? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | D. CONSIDERING WORKERS' ATTENTIONS 


D7. Eventual Habit and Automaticity 


Over time, knowledge workers learn to attend to certain 
areas of their interactive applications, while deemphasizing 
other pathways and content. Product teams can sketch their 
functionality concepts with this sort of habitual learning in mind, 
creating conditions where workers may develop adaptive, nearly 
automatic approaches to accomplishing routine interactions. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect works through a cascade of dialogs to change a very specific setting 
in her building modeling application. When she first used the tool, this navigation 
seemed excessively effortful. Now, she does "not even think of it" as she performs 
the task seemingly "automatically" (see illustration). 

A financial trader expertly tabs through the fields in a trade form, entering specific 
data and making relevant selections. To help him move on to his next trade more 
rapidly, he is in the habit of selecting an option that books a completed trade and 
automatically opens an empty trade form. 

A scientist, having learned a preferred pathway for narrowing in on subsets of valu- 
able data in her analysis application, quickly moves through a series of complex 
visualizations in a specific sequence. 

Knowledge workers' can show surprising skills for incorporating new artifacts into their 
work practices. Even in cases where individuals do not recognize that they have these 
abilities, people may use less and less of their conscious attentions as they repeatedly 
act on or with new artifacts in specific activity contexts (A, C4). 

In the same vein, while initial interactions (K2) in a new computing tool may demand 
workers' intensive attentions (D2, D3, D4), over time, people can develop varying levels 
of adaptive habits within routine and relatively unvarying pathways. In some situations, 
highly entrenched habits can develop into automaticity, meaning that specific opera- 
tions or larger tasks (A5) may eventually require limited conscious consideration on the 
part of application users. 

With these innate human tendencies in mind, product teams can identify areas in their 
sketched design concepts where interactions are likely to be frequent and mental ef- 
forts are likely to decrease due to consistent goals and the crystallization of standard 
approaches (A3, A4). Teams can then refine these functionality concepts with the goal 
of promoting workers' acquisition of adaptive, tacit abilities. These refinements can 
include, for example, clear and direct narratives of interaction (Gl), uncomplicated 
conceptual models (Cl), and appropriate instructional frames (K2, K5, K6, K7). 

When product teams do not actively consider how workers might develop habits and 
automaticity in their application concepts, opportunities to facilitate certain forms of 
mastery in users' experiences can be lost. Resulting products may put too much em- 
phasis on initial learning rather than accommodated usage, potentially leading to the 
development of negative habits for the long term (K5). Workers may also experience 
severe frustration when updated applications are not built from an understanding of 
their "legacy" of learned adaptations (Ml). 


I want to change a 
setting on the shaping 
tool that I'm going to 
use next in my model- 
ling application... 



Architect 


First, I click over here... 


And then I go here... 


And then this will make 
the change... 

I'm not sure why it 
doesn't save that setting 
in the building model, but 
it's no big deal to change 
it when I need to... 


See also: A, C8, D, E6, K8, K12, K13 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


62 


Assuming that targeted knowledge workers will eventually 
adopt and frequently use your team’s computing tool, how 
might you examine your application concepts through the 
lens of users’ eventual habituation and mastery? What 
unpredictabilities could lead to errors by “getting in the way” 
of valuable automaticity? Where might negative habits 
develop? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Where have targeted individuals already developed useful habits and automaticity 
in the tasks and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

What errors currently occur due to knowledge workers "automatically" acting in 
inappropriate ways? Could these problems present opportunities for your team's 
product? 

How might your sketched functionality concepts meaningfully reference workers' 
existing, productive habits? 

Where in your application concepts might targeted workers develop new habitual 
behaviors after frequent use of certain options? 

Where could work practices mediated by your computing tool be repeated and 
consistent enough for workers to attain a degree of useful automaticity? 

How might certain predictable behaviors in your functionality concepts allow 
individuals to quickly navigate their frequent interactions in increasingly "effortless" 
ways over time? 

What negative habits could workers form within the channeling flows of your 
sketched application offerings? 

What errors might stem from users automatically interacting onscreen instead of 
considering the unique characteristics of their current situations? 

What design responses might your team envision to reduce or eliminate certain 
opportunities for negative adaptations and automaticity errors? How might these 
methods tie into your larger error prevention and handling approaches? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


E. Providing Opportunities 
to Offload Effort 

Valued computing tools can desirably reduce 
burdens in knowledge work while at the same 
time promoting a sense of engagement and 
agency. 

Designing for such useful reductions requires a 
deliberate and critical understanding of current 
and potential efforts in work practice. 

During application envisioning, product 
teams can map workers’ consistent and 
routine burdens in order to locate potential 
opportunities for supporting technologies. 

By focusing on how effort might be offloaded 
to an onscreen tool, teams can highlight cases 
where higher order tasks and user experiences 
might transformatively replace unwanted 
actions and cognitive load. 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


63 


All of us face limitations in what we can accomplish. There are only so many hours in 
a day, and our human minds can, roughly speaking, only process or actively remember 
so much at any one time. 

Knoweldge workers make use of valued tools to get more done and to make their lives 
feel simpler. People can become adept at arranging and manipulating the world around 
them to make their actions easier, thereby improving their ability to accomplish certain 
outcomes. By appropriating useful artifacts into their practices, individuals and their 
organizations can positively transform work that would otherwise require tedious labor 
or complex mental operations. 

Product teams can envision opportunities for knowledge workers to distribute effort 
among themselves, their colleagues, and their computing tools. High level ideation 
around "what people are good at and what computers are good at", while useful, may 
not drive teams to sufficiently consider the particulars of workers' specialized motives 
and local cultures. To arrive at powerful and valuable offloading options, teams can 
focus on possible intersections of specific burdens in work practices and potential tech- 
nology responses that could either alleviate these burdens or augment workers' related 
abilities. 

This category contains 6 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

El. Offloading long term memory effort 
E2. Offloading short term memory effort 
E3. Automation of low level operations 
E4. Automation of task or activity scenarios 
E5. Visibility into automation 
E6. Internal locus of control 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore potential transformations of work prac- 
tice through the reduction of specific memory burdens and appropriate automation 
of operations, tasks, or larger activities. Aging workforces within a product's demo- 
graphics, who may be experiencing decreases in some of their faculties, may find such 
offloading options to be especially valuable. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A), "Considering workers' attentions" (D), "Supporting 
outcome exploration and cognitive tracing" (H), and "Facilitating communication" (J) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


El . Offloading Long Term Memory Effort 


Certain information often needs to be “remembered” for some 
time by knowledge workers and their organizations. Product 
teams can envision functionality concepts that could record 
and store this valued content, allowing workers to refer to their 
computing tools instead of having to concentrate on keeping 
certain items mentally available. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist opens a file in her analysis application that contains data from a previous 
clinical study. Since the old study shares some similar parameters with her current 
work, she reviews the stored information to remind herself which analysis processes 
had previously led to valuable insights (see illustration). 

An architect, when faced with a problem in her current work, opens up older ver- 
sions of the same building project in her building modeling application. She uses the 
stored information to help her remember how she had worked with civil engineers 
to resolve similar issues in their past. 

A financial trader uses his trading application to view his group's deals from yester- 
day so that he can see how much business he did with a particular entity. Without 
the tool's stored record, he would probably only be able to recall a few of the bigger 
ticket transactions. 

Knowledge workers can face daunting memory burdens as their activities progress over 
extended periods of time (A). Luckily, people are not typically expected to recall every- 
thing; established work processes (A4, C6) and cultural norms (Al) often implicitly or 
explicitly acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our long term memories. These 
accommodations can be especially visible when work activities revolve around high 
volumes of information rich artifacts (Bl, I) or reference large and constantly evolving 
information resources (15, G6). 

Since computers can excel at storing specifics, product teams can envision functionality 
concepts that could allow workers to record, locate, and recognize valuable information 
rather than attempting to engrain it in, and then recall it from, their long term memo- 
ries (D4). Application functionality can usefully and meaningfully integrate existing 
forms of externalized long term memory (F2, G4, J2) that have historical trajectories 
within organizations and larger professions, such as online data repositories or the 
formats of certain paper records (J7, HI, H3). 

Additionally, team's concepts for collaboration oriented features can indirectly help 
workers to distribute their remembrance efforts by enabling them to more easily reach 
out to colleagues' for their recollections (B7, FI, J5, H3). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could 
influence workers' long term memory burdens, opportunities to valuably reduce or 
eliminate certain types of unwanted memory effort can be lost. Resulting products may 
increase possibilities for recollection error (C9, G3) or force workers to create and enact 
effortful work arounds in order to prevent information from becoming "lost" (D2, D3). 


As I'm looking at the 
data from our latest 
study, I'm vaguely 
reminded of how we 
analyzed the data from 
a big study last year... 



Clinical 

Scientist 



So I'm just going to open 
up that older study in our 
analysis application... 


And look at the analysis 
history to see what 
settings and processes we 
used back then on this 
massive pile of results... 


Oh, that's right, I had 
forgotten that we did it 
that way. Great. That same 
approach should be useful 
in our current round 
of work... 




'nn.nnnno.nnn do' 
nnnnnnonnnnn 
nnoonnoDDnnn 
nnnnononnnna" 


nnnnnninDnnno. 

nnonnnonnnno 

nDnannnnnnno 

nnnnnnonnnnn 


Qi 





What information do targeted knowledge workers struggle to 
remember over extended periods of time in the work practices 
that your team is striving to mediate? How might your applica- 
tion concepts structure, collect, preserve, and present valued 
long term information in accessible and meaningful ways? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently record and keep track of information that 
they would otherwise need to recall from their own long term memories? 

What artifacts do knowledge workers create in order to offload their memory 
efforts and make information available to multiple people over time? 

When do workers turn to these artifacts? What role do they play in targeted 
operations, tasks, and larger activities? 

What long term recollection errors are common? Could these problems present 
opportunities for your team's product? 

How much emphasis do individual workers and larger groups place on the creation 
and maintenance of collective, organizational memories? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
how your computing tool might offload certain long term memory efforts? 

How might existing processes for personal and organizational memory be 
incorporated into your sketched functionality concepts? 

Which memory cuing features of existing artifacts could be enhanced within your 
application's displays? How might your team tailor the representations of certain 
interaction objects in order to support workers' own memory strategies? 

What new data in your application concepts could lead to new sources of memory 
load? How might your product usefully record and present this content in ways 
that could alleviate these potential burdens? 

During what tasks and larger activities could people benefit from being able to easily 
and directly access relevant stored information? What might these access points 
and pathways look like in your sketched functionality concepts? 

What life expectancy could different types of stored information have? Could stored 
content ever become a hindrance or source of clutter in workers' activities? 

How might your application concepts provide additional long term memory support 
for an aging knowledge workforce? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B6, D, E, H, J4, Ml, M4 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


E2. Offloading Short Term Memory Effort 


Knowledge workers’ short term memories have inherent limits, 
even in the context of familiar work practices. To support key 
short term memory challenges in computer mediated work, 
product teams can envision concepts for persistently presenting 
workers with recent cues and information that is pertinent to 
their goals. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader uses a shorthand function in his trading application to enter key 
information about a list of deals that he is negotiating on the phone. After the call 
is complete, he is able to transform his quick notes in the shorthand function into 
a set of separate, fully detailed and booked trades (see illustration). 

A scientist zooms in on a progressively narrower set of clinical data in her analysis 
application. After spending a moment inspecting a small grouping of data at a very 
granular level, she quickly zooms out to remember which region of the clinical 
results set she was looking at. A small box traces the previous zoom area within 
its larger context. 

An architect stops what she is doing in her building modeling application to quickly 
place drafts of three structural features. She then flags each placeholder feature 
as work in progress, which changes them to a recognizable color. The presence of 
these colored volumes in her view reminds her what she wants to work on next. 

We all work from the understanding that people can only actively maintain so much 
new information at once. The limitations of short term memory are a well characterized 
aspect of human cognition. Although knowledge workers can become skilled at keeping 
domain information at the forefront of their thoughts, they may also develop oppor- 
tunistic approaches for using external resources to mitigate their inherent memory 
limitations (A). For example, workers may keep relevant information "near to hand" by 
printing important screen contents (J7), leaving useful documents open (G5, FI, F2), 
and writing shorthand notes while they work (H4, J5). 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could support workers' desires 
to their offload short term memory efforts (C3). This support can also take the form 
of targeted refinements of existing functional options. For example, applications can 
provide fast access to recent information either through continuous display or by on 
demand access via clear interaction pathways (C4, F9, G6). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could 
influence workers' short term memory burdens, opportunities to valuably reduce or 
eliminate certain types of unwanted memory effort can be lost. Resulting products may 
promote possibilities for error in recall (C9, G3) or force workers to create and enact 
effortful work arounds in order to prevent information from becoming "lost" (D2, D3). 

Conversely, explicit functionality and design responses in support of short term memory 
can be limiting or distracting (A9, D4), especially in cases where teams do not consider 
progressive disclosure of recent content as viable support. 

See also: B2, D, E, F8, G4, H, J2, Ml, M4 


Often, there are too 
many deals made in a 
single phone call to 
remember them all 
without somehow 
getting them down on 
paper or my screen... 


Financial 

Trader 



So I try to type them into 
this shorthand function, 
designed specifically to 
help with big lists of 
potential deals... 


Then I can select an 
option to turn them all 
into full fledged trade 
tickets, which automati- 
cally makes some assump- 
tions and fills in a lot of 
the information... 


Once they are turned into 
individual tickets, I can 
review the information on 
each one, make any 
changes that I want to 
make, and then complete 
each deal separately, like 
normal trades... 



J 



\ 



What information do targeted knowledge workers struggle to 
remember for short intervals while accomplishing the operations 
and larger tasks that your team is striving to mediate? How 
might your application concepts store and display relevant 
short term information in accessible and meaningful ways? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What strategies do targeted individuals currently use to keep track of operative 
information that they need to have mentally available or effectively "nearby" 
to successfully accomplish their work? 

What artifacts do knowledge workers create in order to offload their short term 
memory efforts? How transitory are these objects? 

What types of "active" information do targeted workers often forget when they 
are interrupted? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
how your computing tool might offload certain short term memory efforts? 

Which memory cuing features of existing artifacts could be enhanced within your 
application's displays? How might your team tailor the representations of certain 
interaction objects in order to support workers' own memory strategies? 

Where might navigation through your sketched functionality concepts introduce 
new short term memory load? How might persistently presenting recent and 
relevant information reduce or eliminate some of these burdens? 

What functionality concepts or smaller design responses might your team envision 
to allow workers to explicitly record or highlight specific information that they want 
to remember in the short term? 

What programmatic methods could valuably identify categories of "active" 
information and abstractly indicate these items with compact and learnable cues? 

How might your team's concepts for supporting individuals' short term memory 
influence common ground and collaboration is shared workspaces? 

What life expectancy could different types of short term information have? When 
could the persistent presence of this supporting content become a hindrance or 
source of clutter in workers' activities? 

How might your application concepts provide additional short term memory 
support for an aging knowledge workforce? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


E3. Automation of Low Level Operations 


Knowledge workers may experience certain frequent, highly 
granular work operations as redundant or excessively rigorous. 
To reduce or eliminate efforts around certain tedious or exacting 
operations, product teams can envision small, highly targeted 
automations within their sketched functionality concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect's cursor snaps to the edge of a form that she is trying to enclose in her 
building modeling application. Since she is familiar with the tool's behaviors, she 
anticipates the correction and, as a result, spends less time positioning her cursor 
accurately (see illustration). 

A financial trader is booking a deal in his trading application. As he fills in data, the 
application predicatively defaults subsequent fields, which he then simply tabs 
through if he agrees with the values that the system has entered. 

A scientist selects a different filter for a graph within her analysis application, and 
the transformed representation of clinical data instantly appears. Without the 
application's automation of the graphing operations needed to update this display, 
the resulting transformation would have taken significant time and effort to manu- 
ally complete. 

The term "computer" is famously derived from the specialized job that the technology 
initially replaced — the now extinct profession of manually computing mathematical 
problems for science, engineering, and business needs. Since that time, developments 
in computing have only extended this founding notion of offloading well characterized 
and predictable operations in knowledge work (A4, A5). 

Product teams can envision how their interactive applications might augment specific 
work practices by performing small, useful, and learnable optimizations in the context 
of users' actions. To ensure that these small interventions are visible and understand- 
able (E5), computing tools can provide cues to indicate where automations have 
occurred, as well as how their effects may be removed (C4, D6, H2). Depending on 
workers' expectations of control (E6), these granular automations can be the subject 
of customization choices (C8, Kll). 

When product teams do not actively consider how small operations in knowledge work 
could be usefully automated, opportunities to reduce workers' efforts (D2, D3) and to 
prevent certain types of errors (C9, G3) can be lost. Depending on their previous experi- 
ences with other computing interactions, workers may see the absence of some small 
automations as annoying oversights in a product's design (Ml). 

Conversely, in many cases, these small automations simply cannot be meaningfully 
envisioned due to broad variabilities in targeted work practices (A6, A7, A8). When 
misapplied, automation of operations can become a frustrating hindrance to the 
experience of directness in computing interactions (D4). 



I'm selecting the uncon- 
nected form and dragging 
it toward the edge of the 
rest of the component... 



And when I get close, it 
jumps to the surface in 
order to connect them.. 


I can override that small 
snap, but in this case it 
makes things a bit easier, 
and I know that they are 
truly connected... 



How might your team’s functional offerings remove or scaffold 
certain consistent, granular knowledge work operations 
with highly specific automations? How could these small 
automations advance targeted workers’ larger, goal directed 
tasks in useful ways that they may not even recognize? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What discrete operations in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate 
are standard, exacting, and tedious? What do targeted individuals think of these 
operations? 

Where might your team's sketched functionalities introduce new operations that 
could also fit the standard, exacting, and tedious description? 

Which operations in your concepts for work mediation might be usefully automated 
under the general goal of reducing users' efforts? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
small automations in your computing tool? 

What predictive actions, useful suggestions, slight corrections, and refined interface 
tailoring could your application concepts automatically provide? 

How might these automated operations reduce the incidence of predictable errors 
and corrective interactions? How could the design of these features relate to your 
products' larger error prevention and handling approaches? 

Could certain small automations benefit from clearly communicated conceptual 
models, or could some of them provide just as much value if they are typically 
overlooked? 

How might your envisioned automations impact workers' sense of control? 

In what cases might targeted individuals see these automations as unpredictable 
or distracting nuisances? 

What interaction methods could allow users to recognize and override the effects 
of certain automations? 

What settings and customization functionality can your team envision to help 
ensure that automations will operate in accordance with workers' goals? How 
could these settings be clearly and contextually accessed? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B5, CIO, D, E, I, M 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


E4. Automation of Task or Activity Scenarios 


In certain situations, entire tasks or larger activities in 
knowledge work can become extremely routine, describable, 
and tedious. In response to these cases, product teams can 
envision concepts for targeted automation functionality, which 
can change the nature of work by allowing individuals to focus 
more of their efforts on less routine and higher value efforts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist designs a workflow in her lab's information management application. In 
this workflow, lab technicians will feed prepared samples into laboratory robotics, 
which will automatically gather experimental data. Her lab's computers will then 
automatically perform a number of algorithmic transformations on the data before 
storing the results in a repository where she can then analyze it graphically 
(see illustration). 

An architect enters parameters for the beginning and ending of a curved shape in 
her building modeling application. The computing tool extrapolates the entire sur- 
face of the form, including some of its engineering and construction details, based 
upon a set of customized functional rules and defined material properties. 

A financial trader books a transaction in his trading application and then immedi- 
ately focuses his attention on his next potential deal. Behind the scenes, a whole 
series of crucial small tasks are automatically processed across a number of systems 
to make the completed transaction a reality. 

Historically, automation was an early focus in the application of computing to many 
workplaces. Today's product teams developing knowledge work tools may find that 
valuable opportunities for extensive automation of existing work practices (A) are not 
especially prevalent in the markets that they target. In certain cases, however, custom- 
izable (C8) automation of tasks or larger activities can provide transformative value in 
the context of workers' status quo practices (A9) and overarching organizational goals. 

When product teams do not actively consider how larger units of work practice might 
be usefully automated, opportunities to reduce or eliminate unwanted effort (D2, D3), 
prevent certain types of errors (C9, G3), and drive precise, high quality outputs (A4) can 
be lost. Adopting highly "manual" applications may lead to people spending the same 
amount of time, or even more time, on less desirable, "lower level" work and user 
experiences. These "lower level" actions are often accomplished at the expense of 
other tasks that may better contribute to workers' desired outputs (LI) and larger 
goals (A5). 

Conversely, when misapplied, larger scale automations can erode individuals' sense of 
control (E6) and drive corrections and workarounds that may require more effort than 
doing work without automated support (D4). Workers may place a high value on how 
they currently accomplish the tasks and larger activities that product teams perceive 
as prime candidates for automated offerings (A4, C6, E5). Even in cases where people 
desire larger scale automations, targeted work practices may contain prohibitive 
requirements for flexibility (A6, A7, A8). 

See also: CIO, D, E, F6, 1, K4, K10, M 


After my lab technicians 
prepare samples and 
put them in certain 
instruments, our lab's 
automation can do a 
remarkable amount on 
its own, with human 
eyes only on errors 
and exceptions... 




Clinical 

Scientist 


LAB AUTOMATION CONTROLLED BY COMPUTING APPLICATIONS 


Q Automated data collection 
^ Automated data filtering 

^ Automated movement of data in study repository 
Q Automated calculation of resultant values in study 
Q Automated testing against previously coded hypotheses 
Q Automated messaging about data availability 


And at the end of the 
automation pipeline, if all 
goes well, I receive 
accurate new data from 
the experiments I defined 
long before any of the lab 
work was even started... 


T 





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67 


Is your team targeting any tasks or larger activities that have 
highly predictable and standard series of operations? What 
functionality concepts might you envision to automate these 
sequences? What could be gained or lost, from the perspec- 
tives of targeted knowledge workers and their organizations, 
in the adoption of such expansive automations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate could be 
rationalized to the extent where automation may be a feasible option? 

What tasks or larger activities, in practice, present "too much" variability for 
such functionality to be effectively defined and used? 

Which work processes do targeted knowledge workers find tedious and time 
consuming? How do these routine processes currently distract from more 
meaningful and higher order pursuits? 

What established processes do workers value in their current form, without 
automation? Why? 

Which processes in your sketched application concepts might be usefully automated 
under the general goal of reducing users' efforts? What value could targeted 
organizations gain from extensive automations in the context of their larger goals 
and overlapping activities? 

How might automated processes impact targeted workers' desired sense of 
meaningful visibility, direct control, and self determining agency? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
substantial automations in your computing tool? 

How might the strengths of computing be applied to valuable and appropriate 
automation scenarios in your product's scope? 

How could larger scale automations reduce the incidence of certain errors or 
improve the quality of certain work outputs? What other benefits could result? 

What might the user experiences of providing inputs and receiving outputs be like 
in your sketched functionality concepts? Will workers need to actively monitor 
your team's envisioned automations? What alerts and cues could guide their 
observations and awarenesses? 

What interaction methods could allow users to locate and override the effects 
of specific automated steps? How might individuals recognize and recover from 
certain cases of problematic automation? 

What settings and customization functionalities could help ensure that automated 
processes will operate in accordance with the goals of targeted individuals and 
organizations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


E5. Visibility into Automation 


To help ensure that knowledge workers are not deskilled when 
they adopt new or revised computing tools, product teams can 
envision functionality concepts that could provide users with 
meaningful and useful visibilities into the underlying aspects of 
certain automated processes. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader receives a series of automated suggestions in his trading applica- 
tion, based on data that he entered earlier in the day. While reviewing these auto- 
mated suggestions, he can see the reasons why the application has recommended 
each potential trade and then make his decisions based on a wider variety of criteria 
that simply cannot be automated (see illustration). 

A scientist watches as her analysis application pulls from a number of online data- 
bases to construct a visualization. The tool color codes content based on its source, 
highlighting anywhere conflicting information is available from different databases 
so that she can make decisions about which content to use. 

An architect reviews a log of actions taken by the so called "materials manager" in 
her building modeling application. She wants to see if she agrees with the "deci- 
sions" it made while updating a certain attribute across the entirety of a large 
building model. 

Onscreen user interfaces inherently "hide" many of a tool's inner workings. Sometimes 
this opaqueness is useful; other times it can deskill. Outside of highly standardized 
processes (A4, C6), valued technologies in knowledge work may not function as "black 
boxes" that obscure everything that occurs between the receipt of inputs and the deliv- 
ery of outputs (G7, J3, LI). 

To preserve workers' skills in specific practices, product teams can provide useful and 
comprehensible visibility into the details of an interactive application's automated 
actions. Appropriate views of automated procedures can help workers build accurate 
conceptual models of a tool's functioning (Cl), plan the flow of their work around it, 
and more effectively evaluate critical incidents (F6). 

Product teams can explore the notion of visibility as part of envisioning functionality 
concepts that automate operations, tasks, or larger activities, keeping in mind that the 
importance of transparency can escalate at higher levels of this hierarchy (A5). At the 
level of tasks or larger activities, teams can envision options for workers to monitor 
relevant information about automated processes in real time (B5, D6, CIO) or to 
review stored logs of automated actions after the fact (H2, H3, 17). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of visibility into their 
automation concepts, resulting applications may leave workers feeling hamstrung and 
without desirable control (E6). Since even well designed automated routines can 
encounter problems that require human judgment (A, C9, G3), workers may find that 
diagnosing and fixing issues in these opaque systems takes significantly more effort 
than the automation was purported to save in the first place (D2, D3). 

See also: C5, C8, E, 16, K, Ml, M4 



Right now, my message list 
has some items in it that 
the tool is pointing out... 

I always want to know 
why something is flagged 
as a recommendation... 


This one says it's a request 
for a security that our 
desk wants to unload as 
soon as possible... 

So I'll definitely look at 
that one more closely... 


This one is a proposed 
deal with someone that I 
told the software that I 
want to do more business 
with... 

So, I'm going to act on 
both of those... 



Ti 


Recommended Trade 
Reason Recommended 


How much visibility might targeted knowledge workers value 
when encountering or actively using each of the automated 
offerings in your team’s sketched application concepts? 

When could such visibility be useful; what might it look like; 
what meaning could it provide; and how present might it be 
in workers’ experiences? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What automations are currently part of the work practices that your team is striving 
to mediate? What baseline expectations do targeted workers have for visibility into 
automation processes? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas 
about how visibility into automation might provide value to targeted individuals 
and organizations? 

How might a lack of automation visibility create deskilling barriers to adoption 
and long term success for your product? 

What information about automated operations could be important in the context 
of different visibility scenarios? 

Which of your team's sketched automation ideas might safely remain a "black box"? 
At what point could pervasive visibility begin to detract from the offloading value 
of these functionalities? 

What role might certain visibilities play during users' initial testing of your 
computing tool during their adoption processes? 

What value might visibility into smaller automations provide? How might this 
information link out to appropriate settings and instructional content? 

How, specifically, could visibility into larger automated processes provide value in 
targeted workers' practices? Could it primarily be used for real time monitoring 
or might it become more of a tool for retrospective investigation? 

What specialized representations might your team envision to clearly encapsulate 
and communicate information about automated processes? How might the outputs 
of automated processes bear meaningful and traceable "signatures" of their 
creation? 

How might early experiences of transparency help knowledge workers build 
appropriate conceptual models of automation functionalities? 

How could refined automation transparency help workers to recover from any 
critical incidents and standard error cases? How might your visibility concepts tie 
into your sketched design responses for error handling and functional histories? 

What customization options could allow targeted individuals and organizations to 
tailor automation visibility to meet their local needs? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS 


E. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO OFFLOAD EFFORT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


E6. Internal Locus of Control 


Knowledge workers may sometimes feel that interactive appli- 
cations “hijack” their work practices in undesirable and stress 
inducing ways. Product teams can envision their functionality 
concepts with the intention of promoting a sense of control and 
mastery in workers’ experiences, even as computing tools 
usefully perform complex actions on their behalf. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect runs a tolerance checking function in her building modeling application 
to check whether one section of a design meets a specific building code. Where the 
automated function discovers a potential violation, it gives her the opportunity to 
ignore the finding based on her own interpretation of the particular code's descrip- 
tion (see illustration). 

A scientist likes that the latest version of her analysis application allows her to 
intervene in real time when she sees that automated algorithms are not producing 
desired outcomes. In the previous version of the same application, she could not 
interrupt lengthy analyses to make changes. 

A financial trader turns off the automatic trading function in his trading application, 
which normally takes care of low value, uncontroversial transactions. Accomplish- 
ing these deals manually, when he has time, gives him a better sense of his group's 
standard business. 

Knowledge workers may place a high value on how their computing tools automatically 
perform certain complex actions (E3, E4). But rather than experiencing these tools as 
yet more technology that "runs itself," workers may want some measure of control over 
automations (A4, D2), especially when they can influence the character of entire tasks 
or larger activities (A5, C8, K2, K4). 

To promote workers' sense that they are at the locus of control, product teams can 
envision opportunities for users to appropriately contribute their own skills to the 
initiation, steering, and completion of automated processes (C4, Gl). 

Over time, workers may build confidence in how an application performs and contrib- 
utes to their work outcomes (K13, LI), eventually becoming comfortable enough to 
surrender more complete control of some actions (D4, D7). Product teams can promote 
these desirable end states by concepting features that could allow workers to transition 
through such levels of confidence at their own pace. 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers might retain an 
internal locus of control while using computing tools that powerfully shape their prac- 
tices, users may find that resulting applications stressfully and inappropriately "make 
decisions" or "take actions" against their intentions. Workers may believe that they are 
being deskilled by these computing tools (E5, D3), which can influence their decisions 
about whether or not to fully adopt them into their own efforts (K). 

Conversely, applications can introduce "too much" control, creating unnecessary 
opportunities for errors (C9, G3) and distracting users from larger goals (Dl). 


I'm getting ready to 
submit this building 
model for review, so 
I'm going to run some 
tests to make sure 
that the main floor is 
basically up to code... 



Architect 


I'm having a look at the 
settings before I get the 
test started... 


And, as to be expected, 
there are potential 
violations to check out... 


A few of these things we 
should probably fix, but 
some of them, like this 
one, I'm going to try to get 
an exception on, because 
the building codes are 
really vague in this case... 


i — i 


-m 


T 



• • 


Possible Code Violation 






What aspects of your team’s automation concepts might 
detract from targeted knowledge workers’ sense of agency 
and skilled accomplishment? How might your computing 
tool allow workers to have desirable levels of control over the 
initiation, steering, and completion of automated processes? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What automations are currently part of the work practices that your team is striving 
to mediate? What do targeted individuals think about their level of control over 
these technologies? 

What problems currently occur due to workers feeling that they are being 
"controlled" or "reined in" by certain standardized artifacts and computing tools? 
Could these problems present opportunities for your team's product? 

What categorical classes of local needs in targeted organizations might influence 
workers perceptions of control and augmenting alignment? 

What analogies and language might your team use to describe the relationship 
between user and product that you are striving to create? What implications 
could this described relationship have on brand? 

How might you envision automation functionalities as actionable extensions of 
workers' skills, rather than distant and self operating replacements for them? 

How could thinking about automation as just "another tool" in workers' available 
repertoires allow your team to sketch more appropriate functionality concepts? 

How might a lack of control over certain aspects of your product create deskilling 
barriers to its adoption and long term success? 

How might desired levels of control change over time as users increasingly trust 
your computing tool? 

What settings and options might your team envision to give targeted individuals and 
organizations meaningful influence over automation functionalities in the context of 
their local ways of working? 

What interactive scenarios and behaviors might provide users with a direct and 
engaging sense of control over your computing tool's actions? 

How much control might be too much control? What constraints could usefully 
promote reductions in effort, clarified interactive experiences, reduced likelihood 
of errors, and the confident creation of desired outputs? 

What contexts could require automation to be highly standardized, rather than 
modifiable on a case by case basis at the discretion of individual workers? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, Cl, E, Ml 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F. Enhancing Information Representation 


Valued computing tools can represent 
information in concise and tailored ways that 
are well suited to knowledge workers’ goals 
and mental models. 

Designing such useful representations requires 
a deliberate understanding of how people 
might understand and act upon content. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can critically examine how information is 
currently represented, looking for opportunities 
to display important content in enhanced or 
even transformative ways. 

By taking time to generate diverse ideas for 
their product’s information displays, teams 
can situate new and existing content in 
comprehensible views that ease navigation 
burdens and make complex conclusions 
perceptually clear. 


Recorded information, whether inside or outside of an interactive application, exists in 
specific representational forms. A plain page filled with uniform text is one such form, 
along with any number of other textual layouts, tables, maps, and graphs. As workers 
repeatedly create, act with, act on, and communicate through certain representational 
forms, these standards can become powerful cultural conventions that define and 
direct shared approaches to thinking within local communities of practice or the 
entirety of a profession. 

Some representational forms can facilitate specific cognitive transformations and work 
practices better than others. As Herbert Simon wrote, "solving a problem simply means 
representing it so as to make the solution transparent." Poor representational align- 
ment can interfere with accomplishment, requiring additional thought and action. 

Manually creating some representations can require considerable effort — calculating 
values, laying out a document space, plotting points, filling in areas. By comparison, 
interactive applications can make generating standard representational forms nearly 
effortless for their users, opening up opportunities for the rapid exploration of novel 
perspectives on selected information sets. 

This category contains 11 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

FI. Coordinated representational elements 

F2. Established genres of information representation 

F3. Novel information representations 

F4. Support for visualization at different levels 

F5. Comparative representations 

F6. Instrumental results representations 

F7. Highly functional tables 

F8. Representational transformations 

F9. Simultaneous or sequential use of representations 

F10. Symbolic visual languages 

Fll. Representational codes and context 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore a range of concepts for mediating work 
practices through the dynamic generation and use of different types of information 
representation. These ideation efforts may help teams to emphasize the importance of 
existing representational forms or to uncover valuable opportunities for representation- 
al innovation. Concepting focused on representation can also allow teams to consider 
meaningful extensions and interactive transformations of certain information displays, 
with the goal of further tailoring them toward meaningful ways of thinking and acting. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work 
mediation and determining scope" (A), "Defining interaction objects" (B), "Facilitating 
communication" (J), and "Aiming for aesthetic user experiences" (L) categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


FI . Coordinated Representational Elements 


Elements within and between information representations can 
have coordinated facets, reducing efforts that would otherwise 
be needed to usefully bring them into alignment as part of 
certain operations or larger tasks. Product teams can envision 
coordinations that could transform effortful mental work into 
visual judgments and direct manipulations of interrelated 
external artifacts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist intuitively transforms a view of clinical data in her analysis application. 
She gives no consideration to the elegant means by which each transformation stays 
in synch with other onscreen views, saving her the effort of having to think through 
and manually navigate these relationships (see illustration). 

An architect finds it easy to use printouts from her building modeling application 
in conjunction with the same building model on her screen. Both the printed and 
onscreen versions provide the same aligning features, allowing for quick orientation 
and comparison. 

A financial trader views information in his trading application and his market infor- 
mation application at the same time. He changes the date ranges in each tool to the 
same interval so that he can "eyeball" relationships between the displays. 

As human beings, we are skilled at making use of and constructing the world around 
us to enhance our ability to perform complex mental activities (A). Using these skills, 
knowledge workers often come to understand how different types of information 
representations "fit" together (Bl, FI), providing opportunities to reduce effort (E) 
and attentional demands (D) in their work. 

While people must themselves make coordinations a useful reality in their own prac- 
tices (A6, A7, A8), product teams can envision how their interactive applications might 
promote specific threads of meaningful representational connection. These coordina- 
tions can transform work by modifying or removing specific mental transformations 
(D2), changing the nature of, or potentially eliminating, entire operations or larger 
tasks. In addition to reducing individuals' workloads in valuable ways, clear represen- 
tational coordinations can also enhance communication and collaboration (C7, G4, 

J2). After extensive use, workers may become so accustomed to certain facets being 
coordinated that these relationships may fade from thought, even as valuable linkages 
are frequently exploited (D4, D7). 

When product teams do not actively consider how specific elements of information 
representations might be coordinated inside and around their sketched application 
concepts, opportunities to support or positively transform the nature of certain work 
practices can be lost. When teams overlook coordinations that are currently in use, 
workers may find resulting tools to be disruptive and frustrating, creating new efforts 
that were not previously necessary (D3, Fll). Teams may also overlook opportunities 
for novel coordinations with other elements in workers' representational environs (Al), 
whether internally, within a product's own functionalities, (C4, F9) or externally, 
with other artifacts, both onscreen and off. 

See also: B3, F, G5, I, J6, J7, K5, K6, K13 


I was just sent a big 
set of data by a 
colleague, and I've 
imported it into my 
analysis application to 
look for interesting 
findings... 



Now I'm setting up some 
connected visualizations 
before diving in to see 
what I can find... 


And each visualization 
stays in synch with the 
others as I make different 
selections, showing the 
same highlighted info in 
each of these views... 


And the different views 
visually line up with each 
other automatically so I 
don't even have to think 
about connecting them 
together... 



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71 


What mental transformations and artifactual alignments do 
knowledge workers frequently employ in order to manipulate 
information in goal directed ways? What concepts might your 
team generate to implicitly coordinate certain meaningfully 
related elements in your sketched information representations? 
How might individuals create their own coordinations in the 
context of your computing tool while performing targeted 
work practices? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What coordinations within and between information representations, or between 
certain representations and their larger contexts, do people currently use as part 
of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What value do current coordinations provide to targeted individuals and organiza- 
tions? What functional role do these existing alignments play? What problems do 
they solve? 

Which coordinations have become established elements of routine operations 
and larger tasks? Which are typically more impromptu and variable? 

What issues can arise due to representational discoordinations? Could these 
problems present opportunities for your team's product? 

Which existing coordinations will probably not be necessary in the context of your 
computing tool? Which might become more important? 

How might your team incorporate the valuable intents behind existing coordinations 
into your sketched application concepts? What characteristics of earlier representa- 
tional forms and interactions could be meaningfully preserved in your product? 

What new coordinations might you envision to offload effort and clarify relation- 
ships in the context of your sketched functionality offerings? 

What interaction and visual design responses could draw attention to and perceptu- 
ally enhance certain coordinations? 

How might your application concepts present "by design" layout consistencies that 
users could intuitively act within, rather than having to consciously expend effort 
in order to align certain representational facets? 

How might workers create their own representational coordiations by rearranging 
or reclassifying information within your application concepts? 

How could the outputs of your team's computing tool retain useful alignments with 
onscreen instantiations of the same stored content? 

How might representational coordinations play a role in targeted worker's coopera- 
tion, collaboration, and communication practices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F2. Established Genres of Information Representation 


Knowledge workers reuse established representational formats 
to create new meaning in a shared interpretive context and 
to valuably define boundaries for their efforts. Product teams 
can envision concepts for how these existing genres could 
be recreated, reinterpreted, and usefully extended in their 
interactive applications. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader often says that he knows trade forms better than he knows "his 
own name." He has used various forms at the different firms where he has worked, 
though all of them have had the same essential organization and format 
(see illustration). 

An architect uses her building modeling application to generate the types of draw- 
ings that are traditionally expected as architectural outputs. While she used to labor 
over the plans themselves, her team now spends more time focusing on different 
views of a comprehensive virtual model, from which drawings can be generated. 

A scientist views the genetic expression data from a large series of clinical experi- 
ments in her analysis application. The data is displayed in a "heat plot," which she 
is very familiar with after having seen similar visuals in research publications. 

Knowledge workers can become highly skilled at making use of information representa- 
tions that have become standards within their own practices, their organizations, and 
their larger professions (A, Bl). While the evolution of some representational genres 
can have fairly long historical trajectories, other established formats may have been 
relatively fixed and unwavering since they first appeared in workers' efforts. The term 
genre itself implies a certain vagueness in particulars, and named types of information 
representation may hold diverse variations that workers recognize as having 
a familial "sameness." 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts that usefully incorporate extant 
representational formats. These established genres can be extended within computing 
tools to support known variations in workers' goals and approaches (A6, A7, A8), new 
coordinations with other representations (FI), exploration of potential outcomes (H), 
integral communication (Jl) and collaboration (C7, G4, J4), and long term, 
organizational memory (El, 17). 

When product teams do not sufficiently consider the potential importance of estab- 
lished genres of information representation in their application concepts, knowledge 
workers may not recognize resulting offerings as being relevant for their own goals, 
methods, and roles (K3, L3). Unconsidered re-representation of familiar content may 
lead to a certain type of deskilling (E6). Without familiar displays of commonly refer- 
enced information objects, users may find computing tools to be excessively effortful 
to learn and use (D2, D3, K2, K6). 

Conversely, the tendency for direct, literal translation of established offline genres can 
prevent product teams from considering how novel onscreen extensions or alternate 
representations of content (F3, Fll) might better meet workers' goals. 

See also: B3, E, F, G2, 1, J2, L 


Everywhere I work, the 
basics of this business 
are the same... 

You get to know certain 
screens very well when 
you look at them over 
and over every day... 


Financial 

Trader 



Trade tickets are a good example... 


MINOR DIFFERENCES IN REPRESENTATION 


Previous Trade Ticket Current Trade Ticket 


- Jx 

— 

C 

r 

t* — 

=□ 1=1 

n : 

© 

- Q— 




These are the standard ticket forms from my current firm and from the last 
place where I worked. As you can see, there are only small differences... 

And neither of them is really so different from back when these kinds of tickets 
were paper slips, before the average trader on this desk even used computers... 


72 


What central and long standing representational genres do 
knowledge workers commonly recreate, derive meaning from, 
and collaborate around as part of targeted work practices? 

How might your team incorporate and advance these valued 
formats within your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How have established genres of representation evolved over time in the tasks 
and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

How, specifically, do people use these known representations? How do defined 
formats scope and shape workers' efforts? 

What do targeted individuals and their organizations think of their standard 
information designs? What benefits are these genres seen as providing? 

Do targeted workers view established formats as essentially immutable or are they 
open to extending them based on emergent needs and design possibilities? 

What errors and misinterpretations can commonly be traced back to the 
characteristics of established representations? Could these problems present 
opportunities for your team's product? 

How might the onscreen representations of your envisioned interaction objects 
directly reference any established information artifacts that you have derived 
them from? 

How could preserving existing information designs help workers apply their existing 
skills and decrease their learning efforts during the adoption of a new product? 
Where might a change in format provide sufficient value to justify additional effort 
on the part of users? 

Which existing representational genres could be translated into your sketched 
application concepts fairly directly? Which might require extension or modification 
in order to effectively make the transition into your computing tool? 

How might your team's adaptations of common representational genres provide 
users with new opportunities for useful coordinations, view transformations, 
interactive explorations, integral communication, onscreen collaboration, and 
organizational memory? 

How might certain interactions with known displays of meaningful content promote 
emotional responses that are conducive to attentive, focused thinking? 

How might existing genres serve as an inspirational reference for envisioning other, 
seemingly unrelated functionality concepts? 

What impact might the reuse of known representations have on design strategy and 
brand? What could it mean, in a bigger picture sense, to "conservatively advance" 
knowledge work in your targeted markets? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F3. Novel Information Representations 


Interactive applications can aggregate and display stored data 
in new ways that are highly useful and meaningful in knowledge 
work. Within their broader ideas about the advancement of 
targeted work practices, product teams can identify and explore 
potential opportunities for new representations of information. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect uses a special view in her building modeling application to see what 
changes have been made to a project over time. The view colors regions of the 
building model based on how frequently they have been modified. It also provides 
a timeline slider that allows her to navigate through different versions of the design 
(see illustration). 

A scientist finds that her analysis application includes both representations that are 
common to her clinical research field and interesting new visualizations that she is 
not familiar with. After "filling" the new representations with recent data from her 
lab, she immediately sees their relevance to her work. 

A financial trader uses a new interactive graphic in his market information applica- 
tion to view advancing and declining market sectors. 

Adopting computing into an activity often means making sense of new forms of visual 
information. Some established representational needs (F2) may be better met by in- 
formation formats that are more suitable to onscreen display. Existing representational 
genres may not scale to adequately present the volumes of content that can arise when 
mediating work with onscreen applications (F4, 1). Beyond these drivers, the introduc- 
tion of computing power into work can itself open up possibilities for meaningful inno- 
vation through the automated generation of complex representational forms (E3, E4). 

Product teams can envision innovative representations that are tailored to people's 
motivations in specific tasks or larger activities. Commonly used representations can 
be made novel through useful extensions and modifications, potentially for the sake of 
clearer coordination with other data views (FI). Teams can also introduce novel repre- 
sentations from other domains by making lateral jumps to tangentially related genres 
based on similarities in purpose, contents, and usage (A, Fll). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of novel information 
representations within their concepts for work mediation, opportunities to reduce or 
desirably transform cognitive effort (E), as well as promote new types of goal oriented 
understanding, can be lost. 

Conversely, established genres of information representation should often be respected 
as the formats that knowledge workers believe to be the most appropriate for ac- 
complishing their goals (K3, K12). Professionals have often developed extensive skills 
around the use of existing representations (D7, K6), which may prevent them from 
seeing value in new approaches (K2). Without a corresponding understanding of their 
advantages and interpretation, people may perceive novel information displays as being 
arbitrary and misguided. 

See also: C3, F, G2, H, L5, K5, K7, M4 



So I'm opening a view that 
allows me to see what has 
changed over time and to 
look back at quick snap- 
shots of old versions of 
the model... 


I can immediately see that 
there have been a lot of 
changes to the foyer area 
of the design, which the 
client has been driving 
with their requests... 


And that we have maybe 
been fussing too much 
about some other details 
when our time could be 
better spent on more 
important factors in the 
design, which is always a 
tough balance... 



How might any deficiencies in current information representa- 
tions suggest opportunities for representing application content 
in new ways? What compelling opportunities for representa- 
tional redesign can be found in your team’s sketched functional- 
ity concepts? What might these new displays look like, and how 
could they provide sufficient value to justify knowledge workers 
learning to use them? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What existing information representations currently lead to breakdowns in the 
work practices that your team is striving to mediate? Could these problems present 
opportunities for your product? 

Which established representations may not translate well into your application 
concepts or, more generally, a computer screen? 

Which novel work situations within your sketched functionality concepts could be 
made clearer, less effortful, less prone to error, and otherwise more effective with 
new representational formats? 

How might the aggregation of large volumes of application content suggest 
opportunities for new representational "containers" that are tailored to meet 
unaddressed, often higher level, goals? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
information in your application concepts could be valuably represented? 

What innovative representations of data, whether radically redesigned or entirely 
novel, might your team sketch as valuable additions to targeted work practices? 

Based on your understanding of workers' goals, their current usage of 
representations, and other factors, what analogous displays from other domains 
could be applicable to your envisioned computing tool? 

How might new forms of representation be usefully and meaningfully coordinated 
with other information in your application concepts? 

How might certain interactions with novel displays promote emotional responses 
that are conducive to attentive, focused thinking? 

What are targeted workers' initial impressions of your team's sketches of novel 
information representations? How might their perceptions change after more 
thorough consideration and interaction? 

How could your computing tool introduce and frame the value of its novel 
representations? What instruction and initial scaffolding might be useful? 

What impact might the inclusion of new information representations have on design 
strategy and brand? What could it mean, in a bigger picture sense, to "disruptively 
advance" knowledge work in your targeted markets? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F4. Support for Visualization at Different Levels 


Computing tools can aggregate volumes of content that may 
be unprecedented within a knowledge work domain. Product 
teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow 
workers to visualize aggregated information at different levels 
of granularity from valuable, goal oriented perspectives. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist navigates through different views of clinical data in her analysis appli- 
cation, narrowing in on areas that show interesting trends. As she selects certain 
subsets of data, she changes the tool's view to employ specialized visualizations 
for detailed inspection of smaller result sets (see illustration). 

A financial trader uses his market information application to review recent move- 
ments in a range of market sectors. He selects a high volume sector where advances 
led declines, and the visualization zooms in on the selected area to display its 
subsectors, along with their individual directionalities. 

An architect is using her building modeling application to review a colleague's proj- 
ect. She views the entire building, rendered as if it actually existed on its large site, 
then zooms into the front entry space, opting to view only construction notes over 
unrendered wireframes. 

Many established genres of representation in knowledge work are essentially about 
an individual work item or something that workers think of as a distinct type of artifact 
(Bl, F2). Along side these "ground level" views, some workers may be accustomed to 
using representations that usefully display content about a number of items simultane- 
ously (II, 15). Computer generated information representations can take this elevation 
of scope considerably further, presenting high level "views from the clouds" looking 
meaningfully down at different aggregations of "ground level" information. 

Product teams can envision novel, interconnected series of representations at scaling 
levels of data concentration. These series may provide compelling support for existing 
task processes, or present new tools in support of individuals' and organizations' larger 
goals. Interactions with hierarchical levels of information representation can facilitate 
exploratory information seeking (A6, G5), promote new types of understanding, and 
facilitate new approaches to analytical thinking. Novel levels of information aggregation 
(F3) can be tailored to support relevant problem solving approaches (A) and to provide 
clear pathways to subsequent actions (C4). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of multiple levels of 
content visualization in their application concepts, opportunities to provide innovative 
new sources of value can be lost (A9). 

Conversely, in some domains, knowledge work revolves around entirely discrete items 
in clearly articulated processes (A4, C6). In these cases, individuals and organizations 
may not perceive higher level visualizations as being especially valuable additions to 
their efforts (Dl, D4). 


In our lab's analysis 
application, visualiz- 
ing a study's results 
often means starting 
at 50,000 feet and 
then heading down... 



I have one experi- 
mental group that 
generally has a 
higher level of gene 
expression than 
other groups that 
we tested... 


And now, within 
that one group, 
I'm looking for 
outlier genes with 
especially high or 
low readings... 


Next, I'm zooming 
into the data just 
for those outlier 
genes to look at 
how consistent the 
readings were... 



How might the storage of large volumes of information in your 
team’s application concepts provide opportunities for innovative 
interactions and insights in targeted knowledge work? 

What types of information representation could make sense 
at different levels of content aggregation? How might these 
scaling perspectives be usefully interlinked in support of 
certain analytical goals? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Where might volumes of stored data overload the representations that people 
currently use in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

Why might targeted individuals and organizations want to visualize information at 
different levels of aggregation? What problems could scaling levels of information 
representation solve? 

How might new levels of information display meet unaddressed goals in targeted 
tasks or larger activities? What aspects of these new displays could offload effort 
or enhance certain lines of analytical thought and explorative sense making? 

Based on your team's understanding of workers' goals, their current usage of repre- 
sentations, and other factors, what analogous displays from other domains could 
be applicable to your envisioned directions for scaling data visualizations? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
information in your application concepts could be valuably represented and 
navigated at different levels of concentration? 

What novel concepts might your team sketch for higher volume information repre- 
sentations that are tailored to targeted knowledge work goals? 

How could workers usefully navigate through connections between different levels 
or represented information? What meaningful frameworks and interactive transi- 
tions might your team envision to clarify the relationships between representational 
strata? 

How could your computing tool introduce and frame the value of new systems of 
interrelated displays? What instruction and initial scaffolding might be useful while 
individuals are learning to use these new representations? 

How might your team's ideas about supporting visualization at different levels relate 
to your other design responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of 
information? 

What impact might the inclusion of new visualization approaches have on design 
strategy and brand? What could it mean, in a bigger picture sense, to "disruptively 
advance" knowledge work in your targeted markets? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: C3, E2, F, G2, H, I, K2, K6, L 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


F5. Comparative Representations 


Knowledge work can involve standard comparisons, based on 
known and meaningful criteria, between work artifacts. Product 
teams can envision functionality concepts that automate certain 
comparisons between interaction objects and display resulting 
outcomes in representations that highlight any distinctions that 
are pertinent to workers’ goals. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader chooses an option in his trading application to compare all avail- 
able offers for a particular security. A special visualization highlights the differences 
between six offers that are currently available, visually emphasizing the most impor- 
tant characteristics and the magnitude of their discrepancies (see illustration). 

A scientist selects two categories of clinical data in her analysis application so that 
she can view a summary of differences between them. The application presents 
her with a visualization that graphically illustrates key distinctions in the data across 
several variables. 

An architect uses a feature in her building modeling application to compare two 
saved versions of a particular floor plan in a hospital proposal. The resulting view is 
a composite that assigns each version a color and removes all features that are pre- 
cisely shared. Only the differences remain salient, in bright colors that call out which 
version of the model is the source of each discrepancy. 

Knowledge workers often make comparisons manually, without specialized representa- 
tions for the task, by placing multiple printouts (J7), onscreen windows, or other arti- 
facts within their visual field and scanning pertinent features (Bl, G5). In some cases, 
individuals and organizations may define standard information displays that crystallize 
and bound certain comparative tasks (F2). 

Interactive applications can excel at automating comparisons (E3, E4) and displaying 
resulting outputs in representational formats that call out meaningful distinctions in 
informative ways (A). 

To envision displays that make comparative conclusions clear (C4, Gl, F10), product 
teams can explore concepts for adapting established representations already used with- 
in targeted work practices. Teams can also ideate around workers' concrete comparison 
needs in order to generate concepts for more novel representations (F3, K6). Depend- 
ing on the bases of comparison (B6) and how standard individuals' decision making 
criteria are (A4, A8, C8, F6), effective comparative representations may be categorically 
different from how the objects under comparison are typically displayed (F8). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of comparative rep- 
resentations in their application concepts, opportunities to improve certain types of 
decision making and reduce or eliminate tedious, repetitive operations can be lost. 
People may find the exacting nature of manually comparing application content to be 
excessively effortful (D2, D3, K2) and error prone (C9, G3), increasing their short term 
memory burdens (E2) and reducing time spent on their higher order goals. 

See also: B3, E, F, G6, 1, J6, K4, K5, L 


I have to quickly fill 
this order... 


Financial 

Trader 


The search results show 
that we have four 
different sources for the 
security that I need... 

All four seem relatively 
similar, so I'm going to use 
the comparison view... 


I love the way this screen 
calls out differences in the 
info that I care about, 
including some more 
complex analyitics... 

And I'm removing sources 
that don't look right... 


So, it looks like it's a toss 
up between the first two... 

And the tool has put them 
first because its rules 
generally know what I 
look for when making 
these decisions... 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


75 





— ^ 


VWHvv 







What comparisons do targeted knowledge workers frequently 
make in the work practices that your team is striving to medi- 
ate? What specialized information representations could allow 
workers to accomplish valuable comparisons by quickly inter- 
preting emphasized distinctions between selected interaction 
objects? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What types of information artifacts do targeted individuals frequently compare? 

What are some common bases of comparison? Which can be especially important 
in targeted operations, tasks, and larger activities? 

Which comparisons are currently accomplished manually, by workers' placing 
multiple information representations in their visual fields, switching back and forth 
between screens, or other ad hoc methods? 

What comparative representations do workers currently use in their established 
practices? What value do these formats provide? 

What memory efforts and cognitive load are involved in particular types of 
comparisons? Are these acts relatively easy to accomplish, or do they present 
burdens that could be valuably reduced by your team's product? 

Where might automated comparisons of application content provide valuable new 
support for analytical judgments and explorative sense making in targeted work 
practices? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
how information in your application concepts could be comparatively displayed? 

What improvements and extensions might you envision for existing comparative 
representations as part of incorporating them into your application concepts? 

What novel comparative displays might your team sketch, based on your 
understanding of workers' goals and current practices? 

How could your computing tool introduce and frame the value of novel comparative 
representations? What instruction and initial scaffolding might be useful while 
individuals are learning to use these new displays? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F6. Instrumental Results Representations 


For knowledge work processes where the desired user experi- 
ence is highly automated, “push button” simplicity, product 
teams can envision distilled representations of resulting 
information outputs that could facilitate rapid judgments 
within targeted work practices. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist uses her analysis application to test whether any of the subjects in her 
clinical study, based on a subset of their uploaded genetic information, have a pre- 
disposition for certain well characterized conditions. She is surprised by how easy 
this test is to run and how concisely the results are displayed (see illustration). 

An architect runs a test in her building modeling application to simulate how light 
will pass through windows into a building's interior over the course of a day. Almost 
immediately, the tool highlights areas of the model's floor plan that do not receive 
a threshold value of natural light. 

A financial trader sees a glitch in his trading application and chooses to "test the 
connection" between his tool and an information vendor. The test automatically 
progresses through a series of checks, then displays a conclusive "passing" result. 

As certain processes become standardized and increasingly automated (E3, E4) in 
knowledge work, individuals may begin to expect the rationality of what Davis Baird 
has called "instrumental objectivity." In these user experiences, which are common in 
mature consumer product genres, certain tasks or even entire activities (A5) that were 
previously effortful and required specialized skills become streamlined (A4) to a few 
simple input (Bl, B3) and output steps (LI). 

As a side effect of automation in an "instrumental objectivity" style, workers' concep- 
tual models of underlying processes may become uncritical, limited, or even distorted 
(Cl, D4, K7). These losses in understanding may be viewed as a positive impact, as an 
acceptable trend, or as a clear problem by certain individuals, communities of practice, 
organizations, and professions at large. 

With these potential effects in mind, product teams can envision how automated sce- 
narios in their sketched functionality concepts could result in information representa- 
tions that provide users the "answers" that they are seeking, embedded within relevant 
context. These rationalized outputs can also clarify potential next steps (B5, B6) by 
presenting pathway options within the larger narrative of workers' activities (C4, Gl). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of instrumental results 
representations in their application concepts, opportunities to create meaningful 
innovations in summarized information display can be lost. When workers expect 
these highly concise and directive outputs, anything else may seem unnecessarily 
complicated (D2, D3) and difficult to learn (K2, K6). 

Conversely, in some cases, distilled representations of automation results can inappro- 
priately oversimplify work outcomes in misleading ways, especially when functionality 
to view more detailed, underlying information is not provided (E5, F4, G3, K5). 


I have a large set of 
clinical data, and I 
want to run some 
basic tests on it to see 
if there are any 
known, major genetic 
abnormalities in the 
subjects... 



So I've selected the data 
from the new subjects in 
my analysis application, 
and I'm choosing the 
range of testable abnor- 
malities that I want the 
tool to look for... 


And a few seconds later, 
when the results have 
come back, it gives me a 
quick summary of how 
many abnormalities were 
found... 


I can then scroll down 
through the results to see 
the genetic conditions for 
each subject, organized by 
statistical confidence and 
the severity of potential 
health impacts... 




Which of the knowledge work tasks or larger activities that 
your team is striving to mediate could be valuably supported 
by automations that result in easy to interpret, “instrumental” 
outputs? How might these results be distilled into meaningful 
representations of clearly actionable information? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What do targeted individuals and organizations think about the simplification of 
certain work practices into instrumental inputs and outputs? 

What types of instrumental results representations do knowledge workers currently 
use? 

Which existing tasks have conventionally become so automated that even 
experienced workers have nearly forgotten how they could be accomplished 
without their current technological support? 

What are targeted workers' expectations about "push button simplicity" in the 
activity contexts that your team is targeting? 

Where in your team's application concepts might you valuably cultivate this sort 
of highly trusted offloading in new scenarios? What standard and tedious work 
practices could be automated to an extent where people may not need to monitor 
or comprehend their inner workings? 

Where might this kind of simplicity become an unwanted barrier to workers being 
able to use their own analytical, sense making, and procedural skills in fine grained 
ways? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas 
about how output content in your application concepts could be instrumentally 
represented? 

What analogous representational conventions might you reference, or apply 
directly as patterns, to your envisioned output displays? How might these analogies 
enhance users' intuitive understanding of certain readouts? 

What standard output states might your sketched automation concepts result in? 
How could these states drive appropriate variations in representational responses, 
as well as the clear presentation of relevant pathways for subsequent actions? 

How might instrumental results displays surface ambiguities and errors in the 
execution of rule based processing? How could these representations reference 
your larger standards for error prevention and handling? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C9, D6, E, F, I, J, K4, K12 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F7. Highly Functional Tables 


Tabular representations are pervasive in knowledge work. 

Based on an understanding of how various tables in an 
application concept might be used, product teams can envision 
functionalities to powerfully transform and extend gridded 
content to meet certain goals and analytical conditions. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader typically has several of his trading application's tables open on his 
screens at the same time, displaying available assets, offers, booked deals, trade bal- 
ances, and other meaningful categories of information. While making trading deci- 
sions, he often searches and manipulates these tabular views to locate and examine 
specific information (see illustration). 

An architect uses tables in her building modeling application as alternate or comple- 
mentary views to the 3D building form in a project's file. She finds that these tables 
are often useful when she is looking for named objects in a design that she cannot 
remember the location of spatially. 

A scientist frequently uses tables in her analysis application in conjunction with 
graphical visualizations of clinical data. When she has spotted an interesting trend 
in an interactive graph, the complementary tables contain the detailed information 
that she needs in order to make sense of specific results from a variety of exacting 
perspectives. 

Tables, one of the oldest forms of information representation, are a crucial focus in 
many knowledge work domains. Within interactive applications, tables can become 
highly dynamic and transformable displays of content (E3, F8, 16). 

Product teams can envision systemic approaches for table functionalities across their 
sketched ideas for work mediation. For example, teams can define categories of tables 
within their application concepts and then consider the level of functional complexity 
needed for each category. Classification of tables can be driven by the volume of data 
that they will likely contain (I) and the specifics of how they are indented to be used in 
workers' practices (A). Useful functional responses for tabular views can include com- 
prehensive search (12), reorganization and customization (II, C8), filtering and sorting 
(13), search programming (Kll), printing (J7), and direct data entry interactions (B2). 

When knowledge workers are accustomed to using powerful table functions in other 
applications, such as spreadsheet products, they may develop high expectations of 
gridded displays in their other computing tools. In some cases, extensive table require- 
ments can be sufficiently met through lightweight interoperability with other products 
(K8) or the ability to export selected sets of tabular data (K9). 

When product teams do not actively consider the appropriate level of functionality for 
various tables within their application concepts, resulting products may present knowl- 
edge workers with inconsistent and underdeveloped options relative to their needs and 
expectations. When users have to extensively scan through rows and columns (D2, D3), 
they may overlook important information and incorporate less relevant content into 
their work outcomes (G3, K5, LI). 



When it's busy and my 
message list gets really 
long, I am constantly 
changing the ordering to 
see what's going on... 


As I look at each message, 
I'm checking the related 
tables below to make sure 
that I know the bigger 
situation around it... 


And as I think of 
questions about a 
potential deal, I can add 
on to or change these 
tables to quickly find the 
answers that I need... 



T 



□□□□□□□□ 




How might your team categorize tables across your sketched 
functionality concepts based on the volume of their potential 
contents and their associated goals in targeted knowledge 
work? What types of interactive offerings could be usefully 
and consistently applied to different categories of tables? How 
might other representations coordinate with gridded views as 
part of certain operations and larger tasks? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How are tables currently used in the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? Might other types of information representation support these goals 
more effectively? 

What expectations for table functionalities have targeted individuals developed 
from using other interactive applications? What standard or unusual table options 
do they value in their computing tools? 

What opportunities for tabular representation are inherent in your team's sketched 
functionality concepts? How might these tables be supplemented with alternate 
views of the same application content? 

What design options might you envision with the goal of making your product's 
tables more than just flat lists of data? How might the interactive and contextual 
appearance of certain visual cues call attention to important line items? 

What functional options could be valuable for different categories of tables within 
your application concepts? How might certain options support workers' information 
seeking, content organizing, and sense making goals? 

Which grids in your team's envisioned functional areas could become a frequent 
focus of workers' attentions and activities? How might more extensive functionality, 
such as specialized searching, filtering, and sorting options, provide value in these 
central tables? 

Which lists in your sketched application directions, by contrast, could benefit from 
the simplicity of very limited functionality? 

Where might interaction requirements be extensive enough to suggest that workers' 
practices could be better supported through clear and direct transfer of content to 
a supplementary, feature rich computing tool, such as a spreadsheet? 

How might your team's ideas about highly functional tables relate to your other 
design responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of information? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B5, B6, C3, C4, C8, G2, G5, F, H, J4, J5 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F8. Representational Transformations 


Knowledge workers may use a single information representa- 
tion as part of accomplishing very different work practices. 

To support differing needs from a single information display, 
product teams can envision functionality concepts that could 
allow workers to meaningfully tailor how a representation 
classifies and presents selected content. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect likes that she can change the contents of views in her building model- 
ing application based on what her current goals happen to be. For example, she can 
view the 3D model as a full color, rendered building form, or as transparent wire 
frame geometry. She also has options to visually highlight different features of a 
building's design that have certain identities tagged to them, such as ventilation 
or lighting systems (see illustration). 

A financial trader wants to close out the day by increasing his trading volume with 
some of his best business relationships. He chooses options in the "incoming offers" 
table in his trading application that will reduce the extremely long list of potential 
deals to a visually categorized set of promising proposals made by his preferred 
firms. 

A scientist is looking for outlier data in the results of a clinical study. She changes a 
color coding scheme in her analysis application so that only data points with very 
high or very low values are highlighted in a dynamic visualization. 

Knowledge workers may adopt valued information representations into a variety of dif- 
ferent practices (K), establishing or improvising (A6, G5) approaches to using a display in 
the context of diverse motivations and constraints. Workers may have gone so far as to 
develop small variants of often used representations in order to advance their applica- 
bility in particular tasks or larger activities (A5, F, D4). 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers to visually 
reclassify and reformat displays of application content in order to better highlight cer- 
tain features in information sets (B6, F3, J4). By taking advantage of our innate human 
ability to recognize visual patterns (F7), these transformations can significantly reduce 
the effort that workers need to expend (E3, E4) in order to accomplish specific informa- 
tion seeking (12, 13) and sense making goals. 

It is worth noting that supporting certain transformations of information displays does 
not mean removing meaningful defaults for them (C4). Teams can balance notions of 
representational flexibility (A9, C8, E6, M4) with requirements for initial learnability and 
ongoing usability (D7, K) in key scenarios. 

When product teams do not actively consider how sketched representations in their 
application concepts could be appropriately transformed to meet workers' varying ori- 
entations, opportunities to reduce effort (D2, D3) and promote new sources of clarity 
can be lost. Resulting computing tools may not sufficiently support existing local prac- 
tices (A8). Perhaps most importantly, users may not uncover and incorporate valuable 
insights into their work outputs (LI). 


In this software, there 
are so many useful 
ways of looking at all 
or part of a building 
model... 



Architect 



Rendered building of one floor 



Wireframe geometry of one floor 



Ventilation systems within one floor 



Lighting elements within one floor 


Any one view can be transformed to show or hide all sorts of different data... 

So I turn on what I need based on what I'm trying to do... 

Also, the application is surprisingly smart about suggesting different visual 
transformations based on what it gathers about my current needs... 


Which of your team’s sketched information representations 
could be used in multiple work practices — especially in 
distinct information seeking and sense making efforts? 

What functional options might allow targeted knowledge 
workers to visually transform these representations in 
support of certain characteristic or emergent needs? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

In which separate tasks or larger activities do targeted individuals use the same 
information representations? How do these usages vary? 

How might differing uses of a single representation suggest opportunities for 
valuably transforming it to meet important scenarios in targeted work? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
how information displays in your application concepts could be manipulated around 
diverse goals and constraints? 

What visual changes might your team envision to usefully highlight various types 
of meaningful differences within a single display? 

How might interactive transitions between your sketched view transformations 
promote certain types of clarity and meaning? How could these navigation actions 
draw perceptual linkages that may enhance coordinations in users' efforts? 

At what point might a transformed information representation become an entirely 
different view of application content, rather than a different take on the same type 
of display? 

What demographic and localization requirements might your team consider while 
envisioning representational transformations? 

How might certain goal driven, interactive display changes promote emotional 
responses that are conducive to attentive, focused thinking? 

When could transformed views become individuals' preferred perspectives on 
application content? What options could usefully facilitate customizable defaults? 

How might transformation of shared representations lead to breakdowns in 
common ground for communication and collaboration? 

How could your computing tool introduce and frame the value of certain view 
transformations? What instruction and initial scaffolding might be useful while 
individuals are learning to use these new display methods? 

How might your team's ideas about representational transformations relate to 
your other design responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of 
information? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C5, F, H, I, L 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F9. Simultaneous or Sequential Use of Representations 


Knowledge workers may use more than one information 
representation, of the same or different content, to accomplish 
certain operations or larger tasks. To support workers’ 
abilities to meaningfully act from the context of different data 
perspectives, product teams can envision concepts that present 
certain displays in parallel or allow for rapid switching between 
related views. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader selects a single offer from a table in his trading application, then 
opts to view a large display of historical graphs related to the offer. Since the pro- 
posed deal does not look advantageous, he moves on. To browse potential deals 
more effectively, he sets up his screens to view the application's large table of offers 
and some related graphs at the same time so that he can quickly investigate histori- 
cal data for each proposal that he selects (see illustration). 

An architect is tasked with checking the lighting modifications that a consultant just 
completed. She supplements the main 3D visualization in her building modeling 
application with a floor plan that highlights all lighting elements, as well as a table 
that lists all of the lighting fixtures in the current design and their linked product 
specifications. 

A scientist switches between different visualizations in her analysis application, 
some of which she rarely uses, hoping to unexpectedly discover some insight about 
a small but interesting collection of samples within a large clinical data set. 

Some knowledge work tasks or larger activities can require, or at least benefit from, the 
use of multiple, coordinated representations (A5, FI). Workers may act on and through 
a number of different types of information at the same time, each in their own tailored 
format. Additionally, people may find value in viewing multiple perspectives on the 
same content, or the same type of content, potentially at different levels of detail (F4). 

Interactive applications can facilitate representational juxtapositions that workers cur- 
rently find valuable while at the same time opening up opportunities to quickly view 
information from more orientations. Product teams can envision application concepts 
that could dynamically display multiple views of stored content in meaningful configura- 
tions (E3, E4). They can also sketch default arrangements and sequences of information 
displays that could simplify common scenarios in workers' practices (A4, K6). Where 
additional flexibility may be useful or required (A9, F8), teams can consider customiza- 
tion options for tailoring onscreen perspectives in support of specific motivations and 
constraints (A8, C8, E6, M4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers might simulta- 
neously view and transition through multiple information representations, opportuni- 
ties to promote valuable coordinations, interaction efficiencies (C4, G2), and insights 
across views can be lost. Important representations may become isolated in limiting 
and fixed frames, potentially leading to user frustration (D2, D3, D4), increased 
memory burdens (El, E2), and excess printing (J7). 

See also: A, C, F, G5, H, I, J2 


People talk about 
getting overloaded 
with too much 
information, but I like 
to have the option of 
seeing a lot of 
different kinds of data 
at the same time... 



I'm turning on some 
graphs here to see what's 
going on with this 
potential deal... 

No dice here... 


And I've got a lot of other 
messages to go through, 
so I'm going to close down 
this middle column of 
details for the time being... 


So now I can just look at 
specific messages and 
their graphed data, which 
feels faster sometimes... 




How might close onscreen relationships between coordinated 
displays of information provide value in the knowledge work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? What sequential 
or simultaneous arrangements of content in your application 
concepts could allow targeted workers to more easily see key 
relationships or interact through them more directly? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What types of information artifacts are currently used in conjunction with each 
other in targeted tasks and larger activities? 

When and how do workers use coordinated aspects of these artifacts in parallel 
or in sequences? What value do these connectivities provide? 

How might your team use these understandings to envision useful possibilities for 
relationships between views in your sketched application directions? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
information representations could be displayed in conjunction with one another in 
your computing tool? 

How might your team's ideas for novel data views be used in conjunction with more 
established representations of domain content? 

How might related displays be meaningfully sequenced? What dynamic pathways 
could link and bridge higher level views of application content with known and 
established lower level views? 

How might interactive transitions between your sketched views promote certain 
types of clarity and meaning? How could these navigation actions draw perceptual 
linkages that may enhance coordinations in users' efforts? 

What implications might your ideas about relating various information 
representations have on the overarching frameworks of your application concepts? 

At what point might targeted individuals perceive new display functionalities as 
being too complex for their own work practices? How might your application 
concepts retain a refined clarity and appropriate levels of simplicity? 

How could your computing tool introduce and frame the value of multiple views of 
application content? What instruction and initial scaffolding might be useful while 
individuals are learning to use these new display possibilities? 

How might your team's ideas for simultaneous and sequential representations relate 
to your other design responses for supporting work in the context of volumes of 
information? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F10. Symbolic Visual Languages 


Symbology can be a central component of interactive applica- 
tions, adding clarity and emotive style to representations of 
onscreen objects, interactive options, information categories, 
or messaging content. Product teams can envision symbolic 
approaches for their application concepts that meaningfully 
advance and extend known visual languages. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist navigates a visualization in her analysis application that displays the 
results of a clinical study as they relate to known functional pathways of human 
biology. Different elements of these biological pathways are represented as 
specialized, interconnected, iconic symbols, which become highlighted based on 
their relationship to the clinical data set that she is investigating (see illustration). 

An architect appreciates that her new building modeling application incorporates 
a large selection of symbols that are conventionally used in architectural drawings, 
along with some potentially useful new ones. 

A financial trader has customized certain tables in his trading application to include 
categorical icons based on a row's contents. During stressful times in the trading 
day, he values how these small cues allow him to quickly interpret incoming 
information without scanning many specifics. 

Symbolic visual languages can range from color coding to literal iconography. These 
languages can serve many purposes, both within an application's overall framework (C) 
and embedded within its information representations. Iconic symbols are often used 
to represent different varieties of interaction objects, as well as entry points to various 
interactive pathways, as in a conventional toolbar or menu of options (C3, C4). Non 
textual, symbolic cues can provide value as indicators of category (B5, B6) or as a 
method of communicating some types of messaging and instructional content 
(K2, K7, C9, G3). 

Product teams can envision approaches to symbolic language that are built on both 
contemporary conventions in application design (L2) and specialized symbolic systems 
that have evolved within targeted knowledge work domains (Al). These established 
forms (F2) can be incorporated into products essentially as is (K3) or can serve as a 
foundation for further concepting (L3, L4) and styling. 

Since shared interpretation of abstracted symbols is often an issue, especially across 
cultures (Kl), supplemental information about symbolic cues may be necessary or at 
least recommendable (Fll, K5). This supporting content may be persistently visible or 
made available upon demand, depending on a variety of factors, including predicted 
frequency of use. 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of symbolic visual 
languages in their application concepts, opportunities to effectively communicate 
certain types of information can be lost. Without the reductive visual power of symbolic 
representation, knowledge workers may find some displays in resulting applications to 
be difficult to quickly assess and somehow uncompelling (D4). 


In my field, certain 
standard symbols are 
used to represent 
abstract concepts... 



For example, if I want to know what a set of 
highly expressed genes might mean in the context 
of what we currently know about related biologi- 
cal pathways, I can view that symbolically.... 



My analysis application superimposes the 
complex data from our lab's experiments 
onto standard biological pathway symbols 
that I can "read" based on my experiences 


Allowing me to see new 
relationships and effects 
that are important for 
our research work... 


What symbolic conventions are currently used in the knowledge 
work practices that your team is striving to mediate? While 
referencing these existing languages and the conventional 
iconographies of interactive applications, what new concepts 
might your team envision to symbolically communicate 
information and affordances in your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How are symbolic visual languages currently being used in the larger professions 
and industries that your team is targeting? 

What symbologies are targeted individuals familiar with from interactions with 
other products and other life experiences? 

How might your team use these known conventions as a starting point to envision 
meaningful and branded symbolic visual languages in your application concepts? 

What larger design trends and advanced analogies to other domains could influence 
your ideas about how symbology could take shape in your computing tool? 

Where could symbolic information representation be an effective means of 
design communication in your team's functionality concepts and information 
representations? What clarifying and enhancing value could symbols provide in 
various situations? 

What information rich and real estate constrained functional areas could benefit 
from iconic communication of application content? How might perceptually salient 
cues call out important information? 

Where could symbolic representations improve the interpretation of instructions 
and textual descriptions? 

How might your requirements for learnability in various functional areas influence 
your decisions about where to apply meaningful symbolic cues? 

How might your team's design responses for symbolic languages relate to your ideas 
about illustrative content? 

How might your team envision the symbolic communication in your application 
concepts as an overall system that is a complementary element of a larger aesthetic 
direction and brand? 

What are the demographics in your targeted markets? How might your concepts for 
symbolic content be interpreted by different cultural audiences? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C8, D7, F, L 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | F. ENHANCING INFORMATION REPRESENTATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


F1 1 . Representational Codes and Context 


Information representations may require supporting content in 
order to be interpreted correctly by knowledge workers. Product 
teams can envision how different representational forms in their 
sketched application concepts could be clarified with useful 
labels and keys, as well as descriptions of current data scope. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect sometimes gets confused while rapidly navigating the virtual space of 
her building modeling application. She often turns on the application's scale indictor 
and a small overview map of the building model, both of which help her to orient 
herself without devoting much of her conscious attention to wayfinding 
(see illustration). 

A financial trader learning a new trading application leaves a reference dialog open 
on one of his monitors so that he can quickly refer to its legend whenever he is 
unsure of a symbol's meaning. 

A scientist needs the visualizations in her analysis application to always be framed 
by graphic scales. Without them, she finds it easy to jump to incorrect conclusions 
while quickly switching through different views of her lab's clinical data. 

Even highly experienced knowledge workers may find that certain representational 
views are not self explanatory, even after extended use. Workers can benefit from, 
or potentially need, certain kinds of supporting content in order to make a given data 
display meaningful in their own practices (A). 

Especially when functionality concepts contain innovative new displays (F3, F4), product 
teams can envision supporting information that could scaffold initial learning of abstract 
representations (K2). This type of content may be referred to infrequently after users 
have learned a tool, though it may still be highly valued when needed during ongoing 
interactions (C4, El). To prevent perceptions of clutter in long term use (D4), such sup- 
porting content may be optionally viewed, with choices to present or hide it through 
progressive disclosure (C3) or display customization features (C8, A9). 

In cases where workers could be frequently switching back and forth between displays 
(F9) or using a single representation to look at different data (F8), product teams can 
consider how important interpretive cues and explanatory information could become 
meaningfully integrated into representational formats (D7). In these cases, the 
"supporting" distinction may be somewhat artificial. 

When product teams do not actively consider potential supporting content for the 
abstract representations in their application concepts, a variety of issues can arise. In 
the absence of needed information, workers may find that resulting tools are difficult 
to adopt (K6). They may need to repeatedly turn to assistance outside of their focus 
within a display (K7, J), potentially creating and enacting work arounds to ascertain the 
meanings of certain screens (D2, D3). People may also commit interpretative errors 
without realizing (C9, G3, K5), which can be effectively impossible to prevent through 
application logic and can effectively decrease the overall quality and quantity of work 
outcomes (LI). 


It is so easy to lose 
track on the screen 
of where I am in this 
huge building 
structure that my 
team is working on... 




This scale indicator helps me to 
realize that I am intently 
focusing on something at a 
much smaller scale than I 
think I am... 


And this overview map helps 
me to know what part of the 
building I'm zoomed in on, with 
out having to zoom out and 
then zoom back in... 


81 


What explanatory content about abstract codes and data 
contexts could help targeted knowledge workers to more 
effectively learn and actively use certain representations? 

How might supporting cues and information be contextually 
presented or made interactively available in order to clarify 
workers’ interpretive acts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What supporting content do targeted individuals currently reference while using 
information representations in the operations and larger tasks that your team is 
striving to mediate? 

How might existing interpretive cues and explanatory information, or their 
underlying intents, be incorporated into your team's functionality concepts? 

What advanced analogies to other types of information display might you draw 
upon when envisioning useful representational codes and contexts for your 
sketched application directions? 

What additional supporting conventions could provide value in the varied 
representations that your team has envisioned? Could specific data displays 
valuably include further labels, keys, or scope indication? 

How might support for certain representations relate to, or literally connect with, 
appropriate instructional content in your computing tool's help functionalities? 

How could key instances of representational support be made parallel with your 
product's error prevention and handling conventions? 

Where could persistent presentation of representational codes and context 
provide value in workers' practices? 

When might targeted workers come to view supporting content as clutter after 
they have learned how to interpret a visual display? How might certain codes and 
context cues be interactively hidden or displayed in support of these scenarios? 

What customizations might your team provide to allow targeted individuals and 
organizations to tailor representational aids to their own local needs? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B3, F, G6, 14, 15, J7, K 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G. Clarifying Central Interactions 


Valued computing tools can support 
knowledge workers’ primary goals with truly 
compelling arcs of interaction. 

The design of these central interactions 
can make or brake users’ perceptions of an 
onscreen product. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can simultaneously consider potential design 
strategies at both the macro, framework level, 
and at the lower level of important individual 
scenarios. 

By taking time to explore divergent directions 
for a product’s central experiences, teams can 
discover important new design factors, while 
at the same time addressing common needs 
in the design of onscreen pathways. 


When using a new computing tool, people do not typically weigh all of its available 
options equally. Instead, they may heavily weigh their user experiences within a small 
subset of supported work practices, giving those areas a disproportionate emphasis 
in their larger judgements of a tool's overall value. With this effect in mind, product 
teams' larger ideas about design strategy and scoping often need to be thought through 
at the level of these crucial interactions before their application concepts can truly be 
considered viable. 

A challenge for teams envisioning specific interactions is to not take sketching certain 
details so far as to limit the breadth of their explorations. Conversations about specific 
functionality concepts can easily return to the relatively uncritical straight to the details 
progression, limiting meaningful concepting around the different "shapes" that key 
experiences might take. During application envisioning, sketching relatively granular 
interactions can mean working through design possibilities with only as much detail 
as is necessary to establish their key attributes and assess their viability. 

As product teams move from high level models of work mediation down to sketching 
ideas for central interactions, they may identify some characteristic factors that often 
apply to computing tools for knowledge work. These common challenges and opportu- 
nities can be present whether an envisioned product is in a mature, understood genre 
or represents a novel, disruptive technology. 

This category contains 7 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Gl. Narrative experiences 

G2. Levels of selection and action scope 

G3. Error prevention and handling in individual interactions 

G4. Workspace awareness embedded in interactions 

G5. Impromptu tangents and juxtapositions 

G6. Contextual push of related information 

G7. Transitioning work from private to public view 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore concepts for effectively translating big 
picture ideas about work mediation into more concrete user experience scenarios. 
Some extra ideation around important functionality concepts can help teams drive high 
level considerations down to crucial interactions, without getting lost in every defini- 
tion, design, and implementation detail. This additional concepting can also provide 
definers and designers with more opportunities to discover and model factors that 
could be pivotal across many of their products' interactive threads. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A), "Defining interaction objects" (B), "Establishing an 
application framework" (C), and "Considering workers' attentions" (D) categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G1 . Narrative Experiences 


Knowledge workers can develop strong and useful expectations 
regarding how their work is initiated, progressed through, and 
concluded. To enhance users’ experiences of their computing 
tools, product teams can reference workers’ existing narratives 
or seek to establish new ones within their application concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader works through the process of booking trades over and over again 
in his trading application, expertly reading an offer, analyzing its context and value, 
making his decision, and accomplishing his chosen action. Each time he has finished 
this "story," he can confidently move on (see illustration). 

An architect learns to plan for certain steps when managing the potential chaos of 
proposed changes in her building modeling application. Proposed alterations to a 
building design are submitted by different consultants via the same shared tool, 
then collaboratively resolved, before being signed off by controlling members of 
the overall team. 

A scientist learns her analysis application's export process so well that she eventu- 
ally structures some of her analysis approaches based on the stepwise, useful 
stepwise flow of exporting results from a study's database. 

Knowledge workers learn and develop different narrative models that can drive their 
expectations and actions in certain situations. Workers' observed skills can be heavily 
based in the "cognitive scripts" that, roughly speaking, contain the abstracted and emo- 
tional stories behind their efforts. These narratives represent work practices as indi- 
viduals' within a culture think of them, not as they may be directly observed performing 
them (A). 

Product teams can envision ways to adapt and extend these narrative models as a part 
of peoples' interactions within their computing tools. For example, teams can leverage 
some of a community's existing narratives to intrinsically communicate how a given 
function could be used in a particular activity (B8, Cl, K2). Sometimes workers' existing 
narratives do not entirely correspond to a product team's strategic ideas about medi- 
ating work or to certain sketched interactivities in their application concepts (C2, C4). 

In these situations, teams can envision new narratives, framed by those that workers 
already know, in order to provide a strong sense of initiation, progress, climax, and 
concluding feedback. 

When product teams do not actively consider how narrative could play a role in their 
tools' potential user experiences, opportunities for applications to present a meaning- 
ful, predictable, and comforting sense of continuity can be lost. Workers may experi- 
ence the inappropriately constructed or applied narratives of resulting products as 
limiting and mismatched simplifications (D7, K13). 

Conversely, not all functionality concepts contain the same possibilities for interactive 
narrative. While, for example, tools intended to support standardized workflow can 
provide a strong narrative sense (C6), applications centered around an open, flexible 
workspace may not have enough preordained relation between actions to form the 
basis of extended and meaningful narrative structures (A5). 


Yeah, I suppose my 
work has a story that I 
repeat over and over... 

It's really several 
different stories, but 
there's one basic one 
that I go through again 
and again... 


Financial 

Trader 



I start by choosing what 
needs to be tackled next. 
As traders, we are 
constantly having to 
rethink our priorities... 


Then I analyze the 
potential deal that I am 
considering, and I think 
about whether to make a 
move and what move 
would be best... 


And then, if I've decided 
to make a move, I have to 
quickly do the details to 
get it done and move on... 

And that's the moment I 
really like. It's a very good 
feeling to move onward... 










T 



J 



How do targeted knowledge workers describe the narratives of 
their current work practices? How might your team’s individual 
functionality concepts fit within these existing narratives? How 
might they communicate new narratives that are grounded in 
your sketched application’s conceptual models? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How important are targeted individuals' current "cognitive scripts" in the tasks and 
larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? 

How established and consistent are certain narratives? Do workers share very 
similar procedural stories in their professional cultures, or are these structures more 
varied within and across targeted organizations? 

How have particular stories about work approaches been learned and taught within 
communities of practice? 

How do existing narratives start, progress, climax, and conclude? Which exceptions 
and irregularities do they reference? 

How do individuals' internal scripts encapsulate "normal," archetypal situations? 
How common is such normalcy in observed practice? 

What useful simplifications do workers' current stories provide? How do these 
simplifications steer and scope effort in valuable ways? 

What do existing stories leave out? What might these omissions tell your team 
about related automaticity, expectations of effort, tacit knowledge, perceptions of 
value, and other important considerations for mediating work with technology? 

What pathways of interaction and progressive disclosure in your team's application 
concepts could meaningfully reflect and dovetail with workers' existing narratives? 

What novel functionality concepts could benefit from a grounding focus in narrative 
structure? How might the structure of new stories help users to build appropriate 
conceptual models of your team's computing tool? 

Which of your product's envisioned functional areas does not necessarily lend 
itself to preordained, "baked in" narrative structures, beyond smaller interactive 
expectations that are tied to certain operations? 

How might your team's various narrative ideas be incorporated into your sketched 
directions for instructional content and other scaffolding for effective adoption? 

What impact might your choices about narrative structures in your application 
concepts have on your product's larger design strategy and brand? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: C3, C7, D, F2, G, J3 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G2. Levels of Selection and Action Scope 


A single interaction within a computing application can have 
minute or expansive consequences on stored information. 

To promote knowledge workers understanding the potential 
impacts of their action choices, product teams can envision 
clear levels of selection and other informative scope cues 
within their functionality concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist selects a particular data point within one specific group of clinical results 
being displayed in her analysis application. She then applies a meaningful color 
code to that single point, before zooming upward to view it in the context of a much 
larger set of data, containing hundreds of brightly colored result groups that form 
massive clouds of individual data points (see illustration). 

A financial trader selects all of the components of a large trade proposal so that he 
can apply the same rate across each security. He then chooses a few higher value 
securities and adjusts their individual rates upward in order to balance out the over- 
all deal to reflect market realities. 

An architect selects a specific segment of a large exterior wall in her building model- 
ing application. She then applies a functional attribute to it, and the computing tool 
presents her options to either apply the same property to all wall segments tagged 
in the same class or to create a new class as part of applying the material trait. 

Select an object, take an action. This conventional approach to onscreen interaction 
can become exceedingly complex when applications are highly tailored to specialized 
work practices. In domain specific tools, data rich displays, relational linkages between 
interaction objects (B4), and other complicating factors can create situations where 
knowledge workers find it difficult to identify what they have selected and to predict 
the outcomes of certain actions. 

Product teams can identify areas of their application concepts where object selection 
and action scope may present interaction issues (A). They can then actively envision 
approaches for clarifying these key cases. Depending on the character of each case, 
teams may define standard, learnable selection approaches based in established inter- 
action conventions (C3, L2) or create more novel solutions to meet unique constraints 
(A9). Selection cues can occur at a variety of levels, ranging from an entire application 
view, (C2) to whole classes of interaction objects (B5, B6), to individual objects within 
a given representation (Bl, F). 

When product teams do not actively consider how clear levels of selection could allow 
knowledge workers to correctly choose the desired scope of their actions, resulting 
tools may contain seemingly straightforward interactions that lead to confusing and 
potentially damaging results (C9, G3) that may be difficult to recover from (H2, H3). 
When workers experience the act of selecting individual objects within nested or over- 
lapping structures as effortful (D2, D3), the sense of "directness" in their interactions 
can become obstructed (B3, D4). These obstructions can force people to focus on 
obeying a computing tool's inherent rules rather than simply acting to meet their 
own goals, even after extended use. 


With so much data in 
this analysis tool, it's 
very important that 
I know what I am 
selecting and what 
I am changing... 



Right now, I'm going to 
change the color of this 
single point so that its 
position stands out in the 
overall view of this data... 


Or I have other useful 
selection options. For 
example, I could also 
change the color of this 
whole group of experimen- 
tal results, to make it 
different from the many 
other results groupings... 


Or I could change the 
general color of all the 
data points being currently 
displayed, which covers 
several different levels of 
data hierarchy... 




84 


How might the complex interrelations of interaction objects 
in your team’s application concepts be clarified into different 
levels of selectability? How might the potential impacts of 
available interaction choices be clearly communicated in 
different selection cases? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What new opportunities for large scale action could provide value in the work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

Looking across your sketched functionality concepts, how might you categorize the 
different levels of scope that a single interactive action could have? 

What useful conceptual models could shape your design ideas about various levels 
of interaction scope? 

How might identified levels of scope be clearly represented in corresponding levels 
of selection? 

What commonly understood selection conventions could your team usefully apply 
throughout your application concepts? 

What novel selection approaches might your team envision based on your ideas 
about particular, nonstandard selection scenarios? 

How might different levels of selection drive the contextual presentation of 
targeted, goal oriented avenues of action? 

What visual cues, instructive messaging, and behavioral constraints could prevent 
unexpected and unwanted effects that would otherwise cascade via unrecognized 
linkages between interrelated interaction objects? 

How might an interaction's concluding feedback convey the scope of objects that it 
impacted? How could this messaging, in conjunction with undo functionality, turn 
into another form of error prevention? 

How might your team envision the graphical depictions of selection cues as an 
overall system that is a complementary element of a larger aesthetic direction 
and brand? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B, C, G, K2, K5, K6, K7 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G3. Error Prevention and Handling in Individual Interactions 


Computing tools can prevent certain harmful effects of human 
error in specific knowledge work operations and larger tasks. 
Product teams can attempt to adhere to their own, internally 
consistent conventions across their sketched functionality 
concepts in order to eliminate the ability to commit certain 
errors, confirm workers’ intentions, and handle problems when 
they occur. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect uses her building modeling application to change the attributes of a 
material used throughout a developing design. To confirm that she wants to make 
the extensive change, the application presents her with a total count of building 
elements that would be modified. After she has applied the change across the 
model, a number of areas have error symbols attached to them, indicating where 
building codes may now be violated (see illustration). 

A scientist lowers a threshold in her analysis application to the lowest value that the 
underlying analysis algorithm will allow. This interactive constraint implicitly pre- 
vents her from making an error by removing the opportunity to drop the threshold 
so far as to make the analysis invalid. 

A financial trader adds one too many zeros to a number of shares in his trading 
application. The tool rapidly informs him that there is insufficient quantity in the 
organization's holdings to complete the transaction. 

Individual actions in knowledge work can present certain dispositions for people to 
commit errors. Onscreen applications can reduce the incidence of some of these exist- 
ing cases while at the same time introducing new error possibilities. 

Product teams can investigate and identify potential cases of human error in their 
sketched concepts for mediating operations, tasks, or larger activities (A). Identified 
error cases can often be prevented or eliminated through mindful iteration of a prod- 
uct's behavioral constraints or by providing workers opportunities to implicitly cross 
check their own actions. For those error cases that cannot effectively be "designed out" 
of refined functionality concepts (C2, C3, K5), teams can apply their own internally con- 
sistent conventions for error prevention and handling (C9). Even when the constraints 
of unique error cases require novel error management solutions, teams can seek to 
maintain meaningful family resemblances with their tools' larger standards. 

When product teams do not actively consider how damaging error cases could be use- 
fully removed or managed within key interactions in their concepts for mediating work, 
resulting products may present workers with unexpected and unwanted outcomes that 
are difficult to recover from (H2, H3). Poor error prevention and unsatisfactory mes- 
saging can become a common complaint in onscreen tools for knowledge work (Ml). 
Workers' perceptions of product quality and utility may also decline (K12) as they are 
driven to adopt defensive work arounds, such as active versioning (HI). 

Conversely, too much emphasis on error prevention can be distracting (D3, D4), feel 
controlling, or lead to a lack of desirable flexibility (A4, A9). 


Our team has decided 
to change a material 
that is used all over 
this building. We are 
hoping that the new 
surface will give the 
design a more 
luxurious feel... 



Architect 


So I'm changing the 
material description in this 
area of the tool, which will 
make the change every- 
where the current 
material is used... 


And I get a message that 
lets me know that the 
change may cause some 
code violations... 


And there they are. 

I'm going to agree that 
fixes should be made in 
these locations, then 
move on for now and 
come back to those later... 



212 Material Changes 
4 Possible Code Violations 


- “fc 


□□□□□□□□□□□□□DO 

□□□□□□□□□□□□□DO 


T 


Possible Code Violation 



Looking within the central functionalities that your team has 
envisioned, what error cases could present key problems in 
targeted work practices? How might your team use constraints 
in interactive behaviors, consistent patterns and conventions, or 
tailored design solutions to prevent and handle these concrete 
situations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What error scenarios are targeted individuals currently concerned with in the 
operations, tasks, and larger activities that your team is striving to mediate? Why? 

How do they currently prevent and handle these errors? Could these situations 
present opportunities for your product? 

What key error cases could arise as part of specific interactions within your team's 
functionality concepts? What important new cases might the abstraction of 
interactive computing introduce? 

How might you categorize the severity of each error case that you have identified? 
Which could lead to loss of information, unrecognized and problematic outcomes, 
compromised security, or collaborative conflict? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about 
preventing and handling classes of errors within your computing tool's various 
interaction offerings? 

Especially for potentially serious cases, how might your team redesign your sketched 
functionality concepts in order to effectively remove the possibility for errors? 

What cross checks could allow workers to actively prevent errors on their own 
behalf? 

How might the larger error prevention and handing conventions you have 
envisioned for your application concepts apply to specific error cases? 

Could any individual error cases benefit from or require novel error management 
solutions that fall outside of your internally consistent, top down patterns? How 
might these solutions reference the aesthetics and tone of your larger standards? 

Where could recovery from errors be supported solely through undo functionality, 
rather than more attention demanding methods? 

Where might constraining or frequent interactions with error prevention and 
handling features frustratingly conflict with common or local needs in work 
practices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: CIO, D7, E3, G, J4, J5, K2, K6, K7, M3 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G4. Workspace Awareness Embedded in Interactions 


To promote valuable awarenesses among colleagues acting in 
shared application “workspaces,” product teams can envision 
targeted cues in their functionality concepts that could signal 
the performance of specific operations and larger tasks. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader see his colleagues' transactions appear in the books of his trading 
application. When he begins entering the attributes of a new trade, such as a se- 
curity name, the roster automatically filters to show him recent trades with similar 
characteristics. It also displays the name of any traders in his firm that are simulta- 
neously entering the same security into their own trade forms (see illustration). 

An architect working in her building modeling application sees distant portions of 
the model subtly "flash" as colleagues save changes to them. These visual notifica- 
tions give her a real time overview of the frequency of others' changes, as well as 
the potential for iconic understanding of the general shape of incoming modifica- 
tions. 

A scientist, reviewing the progress of current experiments for a clinical study in her 
lab's information management application, coincidently views which samples each 
lab technician is currently processing. 

Knowledge workers are often highly skilled at understanding how their own actions fit 
into the context of cooperative and collaborative activities in their organizations. Com- 
puters can have dramatic impacts on this understanding. For example, when interactive 
applications become a major focus in work practice, implicit visibility and communi- 
cation (Jl) that was once tied to performing specific actions can become hidden or 
entirely lost — unless computing tools have focused functionality that promotes 
these specific awarenesses. 

Beyond envisioning workspace awareness at the structural level of an entire application 
framework (C7), product teams can create concepts for specialized awareness cues in 
the context of individual functional areas and trajectories of action (B7, H3, J5). These 
targeted cues can become valuable means of offloading effort (E) that would otherwise 
be needed to communicate about (J) and keep track of others' interactions in a data 
locale. 

When product teams do not actively consider how workers' actions could be made 
usefully and meaningfully visible to other actors within their shared application envi- 
ronments, resulting products may leave users with the feeling of constantly "stepping 
on each others toes." While an application framework may alert them to the general 
presence of others, without specific visibility into collaborators' actions, users may find 
that they have difficulty planning work (D3), knowing when to contact colleagues (J4), 
establishing representational common ground (FI, J2), and preventing conflicts 
(C9, G3). 

Conversely, too much visibility into the actions of others can be distracting (D4) and can 
potentially lead to unwanted surveillance effects (A2, G7). 

See also: A, B5, C2, C4, C5, G, K, Ml 


My trading tool has a 
lot of new features 
that keep me in the 
loop with other 
traders on my desk, 
all while I'm just 
focusing on my typical 
trading work... 


Financial 

Trader 



If I'm on the phone and 
I start typing in a security 
name, it filters our recent 
deals to show me what 
other traders have done 
for that particular name 
and at what terms... 


If I enter a security name 
that someone else on my 
desk is currently working, 

I get a message right there 
in the screen that keeps us 
from conflicting... 


It's like that for a lot of 
different areas... 

Like if I'm looking at how 
much business we've 
done with another firm, it 
will let me know if anyone 
else is doing that too... 






T 


i — n — i □□□ 

i i 



Also Viewed By: C 


m 


Looking within your team’s individual functionality concepts, 
where might tailored cues about the actions of others provide 
meaning and value in certain cooperative work practices? What 
might these awarenesses feel like in practice? How might these 
cues reference or fit within your sketched larger approaches 
for workspace awareness across your computing tool’s various 
areas? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently keep track of their colleagues' actions as part 
of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How, specifically, do current forms of shared awareness promote the effective 
execution of loosely coordinated or truly collaborative work? How do they prevent 
conflicts? 

What breakdowns currently occur due to insufficient awareness? Could these 
problems present opportunities for your product? 

Where might the introduction of your team's computing tool remove implicit and 
subtle awareness cues from targeted work practices? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
workers might remain appropriately aware of others' actions within your sketched 
functionalities? 

How might your functionality concepts replace lost collaborative information, and 
potentially provide new and valuable awareness cues, as part of supporting certain 
knowledge work operations and larger tasks? 

How might the standards set by your team's application level workspace awareness 
features be applied to your sketches for more granular functionalities in support of 
particular scenarios? 

Which awareness situations could benefit from or require novel awareness cues 
that are substantially different than those found in the larger frameworks of your 
application concepts? How might they maintain a meaningful family resemblance? 

Who needs to see various cues? How might awareness information relate to 
individuals' permissions and tailored views? 

Do your sketched cues provide sufficient value to warrant their potentially 
distracting impacts within focused, goal oriented functionalities? 

How long should specific awareness cues last? How might they be tied to longer 
term, stored histories for certain functions and interaction objects? 

What unwanted surveillance effects could unintentionally occur from broadcasting 
specific actions to other workers? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G5. Impromptu Tangents and Juxtapositions 


The flow of knowledge work practice can take unexpected 
turns, requiring sudden departures and visual referencing. 
Product teams can envision how their sketched application 
concepts could allow workers to transition between and 
spontaneously overlap various threads of work practice 
and onscreen content. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist is waiting for her analysis application to process a large set of clinical data 
so that she can visualize it. She can't remember whether she has added all of the 
needed data to the study file being processed, so she pauses the analysis and brings 
up a planning spreadsheet as a cross reference to see if all of the same sample 
names are present (see illustration). 

An architect is collaborating with a colleague to complete a small documentation 
detail in their shared building modeling application. While her colleague makes 
changes in real time during their discussion, the architect can occasionally shift her 
attention to other areas of the same building model where she needs to devote 
her efforts for other, separate reasons. 

A financial trader wants to open multiple feeds within his market information ap- 
plication to ensure that he is making a broadly informed decision while investigating 
the value of a particularly important deal. 

In many knowledge work domains, the ability to make goal oriented leaps and con- 
nections can be a highly valued skill. Interactive applications can either support or 
impede the expression of this skill as people insightfully navigate through their work. In 
exploratory, synthesis oriented tasks or larger activities (A6, 15), successful knowledge 
work outcomes with a computer can depend on improvised, multithreaded interactions 
involving multiple functional areas and information displays (A8, LI). 

Product teams may find that the organizing pull of their rationalized models of work 
practice (A) can sometimes overshadow ideation that focuses on workers' less predict- 
able tangents and juxtapositions. To help ensure that applications are not too confining, 
teams can identify and explore diverse scenarios for how workers' goals in targeted 
practices might lead to simultaneous threads of interaction and information seeking 
(G6, K8). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers could mean- 
ingfully stray from straightforward, idealized flows of work practice (A4), resulting 
applications may push users to take serial paths of action (C6) that they would prefer 
to conduct in parallel or in alternate sequences (A5). To accomplish their goals in these 
products, people may resort to effortful workarounds (D2, D3) such as simultaneously 
interacting with more than one instance of a tool (C2), repeatedly canceling out of 
processes, or frequently printing important content (J7). 

Conversely, if targeted work rarely involves these kinds of improvisations (A9), then 
highly flexible interaction frameworks and features (C3) may detract from product 
simplicity, learnability (K2, K6), and interaction clarity. 


So I'm just starting an 
analysis of a massive 
data set, which will 
take a while... 



Oh, wait... 

I'm not sure if I have all of 
the data I want in there, 
so I'm going to pause it... 


And I'm looking at the 
items that are currently 
marked to be processed by 
the analysis routine... 


T 


I can't remember what I 
had planned, so I'm open- 
ing my electronic lab 
notebook and comparing 
its spreadsheet with what 
is currently listed in the 
analysis software... 









□ 01=1 1=1 1=1 



i 


How might your team’s application concepts allow targeted 
knowledge workers to freely practice the circuitous flows of 
their work, without unwanted structure that prevents them from 
valuably jumping between tasks or investigating the threads of 
information that they want to see? Conversely, when and where 
might guiding — yet limiting — interactive structure become a 
useful “necessity”? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What impromptu tangents and juxtapositions do targeted individuals currently 
make while accomplishing the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What value do these goal oriented excursions provide in the contexts of their tasks 
and larger activities? 

What coordinated artifacts do targeted workers compare or act on in simultaneous, 
overlapping threads of effort? 

What supplemental information sources do they frequently turn to during these 
circuitous paths? How might these sources be incorporated into your team's 
application concepts? 

What expectations do targeted workers have about the flexibility of their computing 
tools? Are these expectations driven from peoples' related computing experiences, 
or their intrinsic understandings of their own ways of working? 

What flexibilities in your functionality concepts could valuably support parallel 
threads of work, multiple threads of the same work, or other open variations in 
workers' practices? 

How might the interactive flows of your team's sketched functionalities be 
effectively paused, stopped, and resumed? 

Which of your envisioned functionality concepts do not require, or should not 
support, these kinds of dynamic flexibilities? What could this design stance mean 
for users' experiences? Should your team reconsider these limitations? 

How might the interaction models of your application concepts allow targeted 
workers to pull up and arrange different types of information based on their 
moment by moment needs? 

How might these flexibilities detract from the usability of your sketched product 
proposals? At what point could clear and functional simplicity suffer in the name of 
rare, impromptu edge cases? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: Dl, F5, F9, Fll, G, H, I, K9, K10 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G6. Contextual Push of Related Information 


In some cases, it can be useful for knowledge work applications 
to adaptively incorporate “outside” feeling, potentially 
unexpected content into specific interactions. Product teams 
can envision how ’’pushed” domain information, presented as 
an optional resource, might expand workers’ understanding 
of a subject and inform their decision making. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader begins booking a deal in his trading application and is presented 
with a brief advisory created by analysts within his own firm. The advisory relates 
specifically to the item that he is about to trade, and based on its proprietary 
insights, he decides to cancel the deal (see illustration). 

An architect uses her building modeling application to label a certain area of a floor 
plan as kitchen space. In the tool's notifications pane, a list of defined client re- 
quirements appears with the word kitchen highlighted in each item. The pane also 
presents product information for appliances that need to be incorporated into the 
kitchen space. 

A scientist selects a specific gene variant within in a large clinical data set in her 
analysis application. The application then presents a small notification that provides 
links to recent research papers with findings related to the variant. 

Knowledge workers in many domains struggle to keep key information in their aware- 
ness while making decisions (El). This problem is made worse when potentially rel- 
evant information is extensive or updated frequently (16), creating a situation where it is 
difficult for people to know when there could be value in seeking supporting content. 

Product teams can envision targeted situations where their computing tools might 
provide value by "pushing" trusted information (15, K10, K12) that is presumed to be 
related to workers' intents based on preceding interactions (K3). In some situations, 
this adaptive presentation of content can be thought of as a high level form of error 
prevention, aiming at complex cases that may not be preventable with strictly defined 
application logic (C9, G3). These information displays, rather than being just another 
demand on workers' attentions (Dl, D3, D4), may also be envisioned as lightweight, 
opportunistic suggestions that may open up possibilities for individuals to make 
unexpected and serendipitous connections (D6, F3). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of supplemental infor- 
mation that is adaptively presented in specific interaction contexts, innovative opportu- 
nities to meaningfully support workers' synthesis and decision making practices can be 
lost. Highly pertinent information, stored outside of workers' typical paths, may never 
be seen in an influential, "just in time" way, leading to less inventive or lower quality 
work outcomes (K5, LI). 

Conversely, if "pushed" information does not deliver relatively consistent value, 
people may find it distracting and try their best to ignore it (D7). 

See also: A, C4, E2, E3, Fll, G, I 



J 


But now that I'm trying to 
complete a trade ticket for 
it and seal the deal, I see 
that it has an advisory 
message on it... 


According to a friend of 
mine, who's an analyst at 
our firm, I shouldn't 
move on this. I had 
forgotten all about that... 

So I am cancelling this 
deal and moving on... 




88 


How might your team’s functionality concepts automatically 
incorporate useful, supplementing content into the flow of 
certain interactions? How might the adaptive appearance of 
cotextually related information positively influence knowledge 
workers’ choices and outcomes? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently use supplemental or reference information 
in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What specific sources do workers trust? Why? 

Are valued sources created within targeted organizations, or do they come from 
openly available online references and outside, networked vendors? 

What value do preferred sources provide in targeted individuals' decision making 
processes? How are they relevant? 

Which sources are considered underused and could often be influential if 
knowledge workers took time to explore them? 

Which change frequently or are too extensive to keep mentally available? 

How might your application concepts meaningfully "tap into" or connect with 
certain preferred sources? Could the development of reference content become 
a service oriented element of your team's product? 

When and where within your team's functionality concepts could there be value in 
adaptively pushing suggested content from trusted sources into the periphery of 
users' displays? 

In which targeted operations and larger tasks could such functionality become a 
persistent, unwanted distraction? 

What programmatic logic could effectively search for supplemental information 
that "fits" various situations? 

How attention grabbing and directive should pushed information be, given the 
nature of the work practices that it is intended to support? 

How might the relevancy of certain information sources change over time? 

What customization options could allow targeted individuals and organizations to 
receive only their preferred content? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | G. CLARIFYING CENTRAL INTERACTIONS 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


G7. Transitioning Work from Private to Public View 


Knowledge workers may want to work privately before moving 
their outputs to a place where certain audiences can access 
them. Product teams can envision functionality concepts that 
could provide users with clear methods of transitioning from 
private modes of working into defined “public” views and 
back again. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect works on a new approach to a museum's facade in her building model- 
ing application. She chooses not to update the version that her colleagues can see 
until she explicitly publishes it back to the main version of the building model, 
allowing her freedom to independently gestate her ideas (see illustration). 

A scientist selects a set of clinical data in her analysis application. The data repre- 
sents many months of effort from her lab's team, and she finds enormous satisfac- 
tion in finally uploading it to a larger database that contains the collective output of 
a number of separate research labs working on the same clinical problem. 

A financial trader knows that most everything he does in his trading application can 
end up being visible in real time to his colleagues, especially if it conflicts with any 
actions that they are taking. Understanding this visibility, he sometimes uses an old 
"quick calculation" tool to privately assess the viability of his ideas before turning to 
his trading application to book deals. 

Interactive applications can act both as a "place" where knowledge work activity is 
accomplished and a channel by which it is communicated (J). Appropriate boundaries 
between the creative and the communicative can range from entirely blurred (C7, G4) 
to highly distinct, depending on the specifics of the knowledge work that a product 
concept is intended to mediate (A7, A8). 

In cases where clear, separating barriers between private and public work are valued, 
workers may want to explicitly "move" or "send" their outputs into the view of others 
(C5, J3, J6, LI). Product teams can envision clear methods for managing these transi- 
tions (C4, Jl), providing tailored interactions that effectively communicate a larger 
conceptual model of the divide between private and public "areas" or states within 
an application (Cl, CIO, K2). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers could effectively 
transition work from private incubation to the public sphere, resulting applications may 
create situations where workers do not know how to manage their own privacy (Dl, 
D4), versions of interaction objects (HI), or effective work handoffs (J3). When people 
know that their interactions are visible to others in real time (E3), unwanted surveil- 
lance may limit or otherwise influence the character of their explorations of potential 
outcomes (H). To preserve privacy and gain the freedom to make "mistakes," workers 
may avoid visibility intensive products entirely while accomplishing some goals (K13). 

Conversely, in contexts where high levels of workspace awareness are valuable, 
targeted visibility into certain actions may be beneficial for work outcomes. 

See also: A, B5, B6, K7, C9, G, K12, M 


I'm still experimenting 
with how this facade 
might work, and I want 
some time to explore 
ideas before sharing 
with my team what I 
think is the best one... 



Architect 


So before I get started, 

I'm going to select an 
option to work on my own 
private version for now... 



PRIVATE 

VERSION 



And now I'm merging my 
own version with the main 
building model so that the 
team can see the direction 
that I'm proposing... 



□□□□□□□ 



nnn 

an a 



□ □ 

□ 




□ 



Facade motif explorations: 



I 



What interaction objects in your application concepts might 
targeted knowledge workers want to act on in private before 
“publishing” their efforts? What could that desirable sense of 
privacy mean in the context of your computing tool? How might 
workers recognize and change an object’s current visibility — 
whether public or private? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently separate private incubation and public 
communication in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

Why do workers currently create and make use of these separations? What events 
can trigger them to bridge these boundaries in either direction? 

Which "public" recipients, stakeholders, and colleagues are targeted workers 
typically concerned with when they think about "privacy"? 

Which current work practices are often accomplished in private, either individually 
or within a collaborating group, and then distributed to "outside" audiences? 

Which targeted tasks and larger activities are continually visible to certain 
collaborators? 

Which efforts in workers' practices lie between the extremes of entirely private and 
entirely public? How do people currently conceptualize these shades of gray? 

How might your functionality concepts mirror current approaches to managing the 
visibility of work, especially when it comes to preventing unwanted public viewing? 

What reinforcing cues and messaging could clarify current privacy states within 
specific interactions? 

How might transitional pathways between private and public states provide users 
with clear narratives and unambiguous feedback? 

How could individual cases of the distinction between public and private collectively 
communicate a larger conceptual model of visibility rules within your application 
concepts? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting the transition from private 
work to public visibility relate to your other concepts for supporting cooperation, 
collaboration, and workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


H. Supporting Outcome Exploration 
and Cognitive Tracing 


Valued computing tools can play a supporting 
role in divergent and malleable pathways of 
thought and action. 

Designing this kind of support requires an 
understanding of peoples’ burdens in scenario 
oriented activities. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can map and explore areas of targeted work 
practices where people productively consider 
multiple options or “look back” through 
previous possibilities and choices. 

By taking time to explore how users might 
test different scenarios or retrace their 
earlier cognitive paths, teams can highlight 
opportunities to tailor and extend their products 
in novel and highly useful ways. 


As part of arriving at successful outcomes, knowledge workers often become highly 
skilled at thinking through potential approaches before pursuing a chosen trajectory. 
They may make explicit efforts to keep track of their various predictions and lines of 
thinking as they accomplish their efforts. Or they may circumstantially reflect back after 
some interval of time, reconstructing their pathways through an examination of their 
memories and the external artifacts of their actions. 

Interactive applications can allow knowledge workers to externally test scenarios and 
react to their outcomes without committing to permanent action. Trusted computing 
tools can accurately store and dynamically revert to certain points within the progres- 
sions of onscreen views that flow from workers' explorations — often in greater detail 
than individuals can mentally visualize in their own recollections. 

By removing these memory burdens and providing such externalized flexibility — out- 
side of workers' own heads — applications can supplement users' top down thinking 
about their problems with rapid, free experimentation and serendipitous, chance op- 
erations. In some specialized activities, interactive simulations based on domain specific 
rules and information representations can transform slow and effortful practices into 
fluid sandboxes for thinking work. 

In addition to supporting workers' exploration of outcomes, the creation and storage 
of interactive historical trails can be valuable for cooperative and collaborative work, 
recovery from errors in work practice, and evaluation of major incidents. 

This category contains 4 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

HI. Active versioning 

H2. Extensive and reconstructive undo 

H3. Automated historical records and versions 

H4. Working annotations 


Product teams can use these ideas to explore functionality concepts for supporting, or 
effectively extending, workers' abilities to consider potential outcomes and retrace their 
interactions. Ideation focused around such support can help teams uncover innovative 
opportunities to effectively externalize otherwise internal work practices, potentially 
allowing for more creative, higher quality knowledge work outputs. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work 
mediation and determining scope" (A), "Considering workers' attentions" (D), "Provid- 
ing opportunities to offload effort" (E), and "Working with volumes of information" (I) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | H. SUPPORTING OUTCOME EXPLORATION AND COGNITIVE TRACING 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


HI . Active Versioning 


Actively versioning application content can free knowledge 
workers from concerns of damaging previous efforts while they 
explore alternate scenarios or otherwise advance their goals. 
Product teams can envision how the ability to create multiple, 
separate versions of interaction objects could allow workers 
to intentionally differentiate threads of effort and preserve 
milestones of progress over time. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist, while using her analysis application, tries to recognize key moments and 
jumping off points during her interactions with a set of clinical data, saving different 
versions of the analysis file at these important junctures (see illustration). 

An architect uses her building modeling application to create several different ver- 
sions of a small building segment where she is currently thinking through detailed 
design. She has a few ideas of how the design could effectively play out, so she 
saves each idea as a named version in order to discuss them later with project 
sta keholders. 

A financial trader uses his trading application to save each round of communications 
on the topic of closing a large, multi-component deal. By saving each version of the 
negotiation, he can double check that his counterparty does not make any hidden 
changes to trade parameters. 

Active versioning of valued information can be an important part of computer medi- 
ated knowledge work. Historically, workers have needed to version content in order to 
provide safety from computer glitches and to defend their progress from their own or 
colleagues' poorly conceived changes (H2, H3). Workers may also version content to 
preserve organizational memory within an activity (17, El, E2), to create new interaction 
objects from an existing object (BIO), or to temporarily maintain "views" while 
exploring possible scenarios (G5). 

To version an existing interaction object, people often seek expected and conventional 
"Save as" and "Copy" commands to create named duplicates (Bl, B4). Product teams 
can envision additional interaction pathways to tailor active versioning to targeted work 
practices (C4) and relevant error prevention scenarios (C9, G3). 

When versioning "genealogies" are both informative in work practice and inherently 
complex, teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers to mean- 
ingfully organize (B2) and view version lineages (B4). 

When product teams do not consider the potential role of active versioning in their ap- 
plication concepts, opportunities to support outcome exploration, cognitive tracing (H), 
and information security (K13) may be lost. Even though products can often leverage 
versioning functionality from their surrounding technology environments, knowledge 
workers may value integrated versioning interactivity within their tools. When they 
perceive available versioning methods as confusing (Cl) or as excessively effortful 
workarounds (D2, D3), their opinions of a product's utility may suffer. 

See Also: A, B2, B5, B6, El, FI, II, J5 


At different points in 
my long and circuitous 
data explorations, I like 
to create separate, 
safely saved versions 
of whatever analysis 
that I'm working on... 



Clinical 

Scientist 




So at the end of a single 
session of using my 
analysis software, I may 
have chosen to create 
multiple versions of the 
overall analysis file for 
any of a number of 
different reasons... 



Version to save important milestone 


Version before trying new approach 


Version to save important milestone 


Version prior to adding new data 


Could the opportunity to actively “branch” or “preserve” key 
versions of interaction objects provide value in the knowledge 
work practices that your team is striving to mediate? How 
might the lineages of related versions be usefully displayed, 
allowing targeted workers to meaningfully trace sequential arcs 
and branching relationships? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

When do targeted individuals currently create different versions of information 
artifacts in their work practices? What value do these versions provide? 

How do knowledge workers and their organizations keep track of multiple versions 
of an object? What language do they use to categorize and describe them? Do they 
track "genealogies" across versions? 

Based on your understanding of current practices, which of the interaction objects 
in your team's application concepts will targeted workers likely want to actively 
version? 

How might the introduction of your computing tool create valuable opportunities 
for workers to use versioning to intentionally differentiate threads of effort or 
preserve milestones of progress over time? 

What larger technology and market trends could influence your team's ideas 
about active versioning of stored content? What related aspects of targeted 
IT infrastructures might your team use as grounding for envisioning these 
functionalities? 

What events might trigger workers to consider versioning information in your 
sketched application concepts? 

Which of the interaction objects that your team has envisioned should not support 
multiple versions? Why? 

How might your sketched functionality concepts contextually provide versioning 
options in related interactive pathways and error scenarios? 

What goals and practices might drive workers to investigate versioning lineages 
of specific onscreen content? 

What representations of lineage information might clarify valuable versioning 
relationships? 

What functionality concepts might your team envision to allow users to navigate 
or "restore" previous versions? 

Could automated versioning, in the form of stored history about changes in 
interaction objects, complement or provide more value to targeted workers than 
active, "manual" versioning? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | H. SUPPORTING OUTCOME EXPLORATION AND COGNITIVE TRACING 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


H2. Extensive and Reconstructive Undo 


Undo functionality can offload effort from knowledge workers 
to their computing tools by storing step-by-step trails of their 
onscreen actions, effectively freeing them from concerns 
of damaging previous efforts. Product teams can envision 
functionality concepts that could allow workers to sequentially 
reconstruct earlier states in their interactive applications. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader, realizing that he has made a mistake, uses undo to navigate back- 
ward in his trading application, removing some changes that he had made to the 
parameters of a large deal. If he had already executed the trade, undo would not 
have worked, and he would have had to pick up the phone to try to make correc- 
tions to the committed data (see illustration). 

A scientist has applied a change to too many clinical samples in her lab's informa- 
tion management application. She is relieved that a single undo action removes this 
change across all of the affected samples. 

An architect working on a residential project in her building modeling application 
realizes that her current design approach is creating too much obstruction between 
two spaces. She instinctively turns to the application's undo command to sequen- 
tially remove a series of actions, watching them "peel back" to where she had been 
a few minutes ago. 

While a typewriter's correction tape leaves artifacts of its use, the digital contents of in- 
teractive applications can withstand repeated modifications without any loss of quality. 
Undo functionality exploits this mutability to provide valuable options. 

By capturing sequential evidence of workers' previous actions, undo can become a key 
pathway for knowledge workers seeking to reconstruct their earlier thought processes 
and emergent actions (A6, E, H). Workers using trusted, stable products (K12, K13) can 
become comfortable with the idea of taking actions without committing to any particu- 
lar outcomes that might occur. They are able to try, then try again. 

In contrast, the nature of some onscreen actions should have a certain level finality. 
Depending on the specifics of targeted work practices (A), product teams can identify 
operations and larger tasks that should not be the subject of rapid, lightweight undo. 
When varying undo rules exist within an application concept, teams can envision clear 
and consistent models of how undo will operate on different functionalities (Cl, H3), 
referencing existing conventions when applicable (C3). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of undo in their 
application concepts, opportunities to directly support dynamic and exploratory user 
experiences can be lost. Without undo functionalities, workers may have severe difficul- 
ties recovering from errors (C9, D2, D3, G3), potentially leading to lower quality work 
outcomes (LI). In an attempt to overcome these limitations, they may enact extensive 
workarounds, such as repeatedly saving and managing different versions of their 
valued data (HI, I). 


I've got to be extra 
careful entering the 
details for this huge, 
very high value deal. 



Now I'm just double 
checking whether I've put 
in the right things before 
I press the final button 
here... 


Damn. I'm glad I double 
checked. I was thinking 
about this all wrong... 

I have to undo a lot this 
info, because I put this 
deal in the wrong category 
up front... 



Okay, now I am back at 
the point where I made 
the wrong choice, and I 
can make this right... 





' v '-VyA a V\A 


How might undo functionality play a role in the knowledge work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? Does the nature 
of targeted work allow for such uncommitted action? How 
might undo options “save” targeted workers from erroneous 
outcomes and allow them to valuably explore a breadth of 
scenarios? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently consider different options within different 
"episodes" of their work? 

How can these current explorations prevent mistakes and improve work outcomes? 

What expectations do targeted workers and their organizations have about undo 
functionality in their computing tools? 

What benefits might undo provide in the specific tasks or larger activities that your 
application concepts are intended to mediate? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
what undo options could look like? 

What existing undo rules and conventions might you usefully apply? 

How might your product's preordained technologies influence your team's envision- 
ing of undo experiences? 

How, specifically, might undo apply within your sketched functionality concepts? 
What unusual cases may present definition and design challenges? 

Which stored user actions might be skipped in undo sequences? 

How might scenarios around cooperative or collaborative efforts impact your ideas 
about undo rules in shared workspaces? Should users' actions become more or less 
permanent in these scenarios? 

What might the experience of "rolling back" actions be like after elapsed intervals of 
time? 

What novel interactive and representational approaches might your team envision 
to allow workers to more effectively use their stored action histories? 

How might the stored pathways of undo functionality relate to any other longer 
term, historical information about interaction objects in your application concepts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concept- 
ing could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: C2, CIO, D4, D5, G5, F9 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | H. SUPPORTING OUTCOME EXPLORATION AND COGNITIVE TRACING 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


H3. Automated Historical Records and Versions 


Knowledge work applications can automatically store informa- 
tion about the actions that have been performed on specific 
interaction objects or enacted within a given functional area. 
Product teams can envision concepts for usefully presenting 
captured historical events in ways that could allow workers to 
meaningfully trace, and potentially restore, system elements 
to earlier states and versions. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect wants to review changes in a particularly controversial section of a 
building project before a client meeting. She uses her building modeling applica- 
tion to view the version history of the section, which allows her to browse a list of 
related changes that have occurred in the last week (see illustration). 

A financial trader opens a completed transaction in his trading application to see 
which specific actions have been taken on the deal since he closed it. Even though 
he cannot change anything without making some phone calls, the history info allows 
him to assess whether the large and crucial deal is being handled promptly. 

A scientist views the history of a single clinical sample in her lab's information man- 
agement application. All of the actions that have been taken on the sample, from 
its acquisition to different steps of processing and experimental manipulation, are 
chronologically listed, along with automatically saved version "snapshots". 

When computers are applied to knowledge work, individual users' actions can be 
tracked in considerable detail. In the same vein as storing interactions in support of 
undo functionality (H2), computing tools can usefully "informate" work activities by 
automatically recording, and displaying on demand, meaningful information about 
actions taken on particular objects, or within particular functions. 

Since tracking some types of actions may not be useful or desirable, product teams can 
envision automated history functionalities that record only those events that may be 
pertinent to workers' retrospective looking goals, which may include certain actions 
performed by the tool itself (E5). These recorded events, or automatically stored ver- 
sions, can be particularly valuable in application concepts where important interaction 
objects and functions are likely to be accessed by multiple workers during the course of 
their normal practices (A7, Cl, G4). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of stored, accessible 
history for content and functional areas within their application concepts, opportuni- 
ties to support valuable understandings in work practice can be lost. Additionally, when 
teams do not consider the possibility of automated versioning, they may be overlooking 
a key area of potential functional value. Certain practices may be made more difficult 
(D2) without automated history options, such as understanding collaborative action, 
communicating about work progress (J4), planning next steps (B5, D3), and evaluating 
critical incidents (C9, G3). 

Conversely, inappropriate visibility into stored events can be distracting (D4) and can 
potentially lead to unwanted surveillance effects (A2). 


I know a lot of 
changes have been 
made in this area of 
the building model, 
and I want to remind 
myself about what's 
been in flux... 



So I've selected the area in 
question, and I'm scroll- 
ing to show the history 
panel... 


Where I can explore, from 
different perspectives, 
every change made within 
these coordinates of the 
building model... 


And as I go through the 
change list for the last 
week, it shows useful 
"before and after" snap- 
shots for each change. 
Alternately, I could choose 
to watch all the sequential 
changes as a video... 





When might the individuals and organizations that your team 
is targeting find value in looking back at what has occurred to 
certain onscreen objects or within particular functionalities? 

Why might they want to look at these histories? What related 
information and options — such as the ability to restore to 
earlier, automatically captured versions — might support their 
motivations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted workers currently track historical information about artifacts in 
the work practices that your team is striving to meditate? 

What information do they record? Why? 

When do targeted individuals currently refer to these historical records? 

What value does historical information provide in their own efforts? In cooperative 
and collaborative activities? 

Given workers' current retrospective looking goals and cultural environments, which 
specific interaction objects and functionality concepts in your team's sketched 
product ideas might valuably provide historical records and views? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other products could 
inform your team's ideation of concepts for meaningful historical trails and 
automated versioning? 

What interactive pathways could be made available from within lists of recorded 
events? How might these actions relate to your team's functionality concepts for 
active versioning and undo? 

Which of your sketched functionalities, such as any significant automations, might 
be subject to complex, critical incidents? How might historical trails provide value 
after these incidents have occurred? 

What novel interactive and representational approaches might your team envision 
to allow knowledge workers to more effectively use stored historical information 
about certain objects and functions? 

What unwanted surveillance effects could unintentionally occur from capturing 
specific actions or data elements in saved historical records? 

How might your team's approaches for automatically stored histories relate to 
your functionality concepts supporting cooperation, collaboration, and workspace 
awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See Also: A, Bl, D5, El, E2, G5, H 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | H. SUPPORTING OUTCOME EXPLORATION AND COGNITIVE TRACING 


H4. Working Annotations 


Knowledge workers’ shorthand, contextual annotations can 
support their own recollections and other cognitive processes. 
Product teams can envision functionality concepts that 
could allow workers to record these lightweight, often private 
annotations in the context of specific interaction objects or 
functional areas. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader, while considering different possibilities for a large trade, adds 
some notes to the trade form that he can look at later, when he goes to execute 
the deal. He wants to make sure he gives each of several different scenarios a fair 
testing before committing to a set of terms, and his working notes allow him to keep 
track of different pros and cons in order to get to the best deal (see illustration). 

An architect, having just concluded a brief client meeting, wants to make some 
quick notes in her building modeling application. She switches to the floor plan view 
of the project's file and adds a number of vague, private, reminders on building 
elements that require her attention. 

A scientist is planning a new round of experiments for a clinical study. As she thinks 
through the changes that she would like to make based on the outcomes of a 
previous round of experiments, she adds some quick notes to a number of standard 
templates in her lab's information management application. 

In variable, interrupted (D5), and emergent (A6) tasks or larger activities, individual 
knowledge workers may face some difficulty in keeping track of their own thoughts 
and actions. To help counter these burdens, workers may opportunistically create 
lightweight annotations that offload the effort of remembering their plans and situated 
interactions (El, E2). These lightweight annotations can effectively tie recorded "work 
about the work" to specific artifacts in the annotator's practice. Although such notes 
may be seen within a circle of colleagues, the shorthand of working annotations may 
not contain fully formed ideas that are intended for outside interpretation (Jl, J5). 

Product teams can envision functional support for working annotations as textual 
notes, onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attachments, links, and other 
options. They can also consider how these methods might come across as lightweight 
and informative rather than binding declarations. 

When product teams do not actively consider functionality concepts for informal, 
personal annotations, resulting applications may drive workers to turn to outside 
annotation methods such as marking up printouts (J7), notepads, or other media. 
Individuals may find integrating these outside annotations back into their work 
within a computing tool to be difficult (I) and time consuming (D3, D4). 

Conversely, in some knowledge work domains, working annotations may be better 
supported outside of interactive applications. Offline methods can provide certain 
affordances and a level of expressiveness that workers may find preferable to the 
options that are available in contemporary personal computing. 


This large deal could 
play out in a few 
different ways, and I 
want to make sure 
that I go down the 
right road... 


Financial 

Trader 


So I'm testing out different 
possibilities... 


And as I try them out, I'm 
writing some notes to 
myself. It's good to have 
them in the form in case I 
get called away to make 
some other deal... 


These notes will help me 
remember in the end 
which approach is best... 

I can get rid of them 
whenever I want, so other 
people in our firm don't 
have to look at them... 


See Also: A, B2, B6, H,J1, 17 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


94 




When and where are informal, working annotations currently 
used in the knowledge work practices that your team is striving 
to meditate? How might your application concepts allow 
targeted workers to similarly “draw in the margins” while they 
work within certain onscreen displays? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which workplace locations or artifacts do targeted individuals currently apply 
informal, offloading annotations to as part of their work practices? 

What role do these annotations play in workers' individual and collaborative mental 
efforts? What value do they provide? 

Are working notes relatively static or are they iteratively placed and revised? 

Do relatively long lasting private annotations sometimes become public 
communications over time? What do workers think of outside viewers seeing 
their working notes? 

Which areas of your team's application concepts could be used in activity contexts 
with high levels of cognitive burden? How might users offload some of those 
burdens by taking advantage of direct, lightweight annotation options? 

Which areas of your proposed computing tool are tied to time consuming activities 
where it is likely that workers will be substantially interrupted from their mental 
flows? How might they mark their place by using annotation functionality? 

What methods of annotation could be appropriate within your team's sketched 
functionality concepts, based on characterized offloading goals? Might textual 
notes, onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attachments, or links 
be useful? 

How could your sketched representations of working annotations contextually tie 
them to their onscreen subjects? 

Who should be able to view whose notes, based on their permissions within your 
computing tool? 

What useful supplemental interactivity and information might your team envision 
around various working annotations? For example, should workers be able to 
check off completed notes or set durations after which their notes will fade from 
prominence? 

How might your team's support for working annotations relate to your functionality 
concepts for automated historical records and versions? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


I. Working with Volumes of Information 


Valued computing tools can contain massive 
amounts of content while somehow retaining 
clarity and manageability in practice. 

Designing such clarity requires a critical 
understanding of how people think about and 
use certain types of information. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can map and explore their applications’ 
potential roles in aggregating and linking to 
knowledge work content. 

By taking time to explore potential scenarios 
around growing collections of stored data, 
teams can envision powerful, flexible, 
and comprehensive user experiences for 
information organization, discovery, retrieval, 
use, and sharing. 


The inputs and outputs of knowledge work often amass over time within organizations. 
In a growing number of workplaces, networked databases and file servers now comple- 
ment or have largely replaced file cabinets and physical archives as central repositories 
of information. Incorporating computers into work activities can increase the amount 
of content generated and stored during everyday work practice, since applications may 
track more information, at greater detail, than was previously customary. 

In many knowledge work domains, how workers organize and make use of relevant 
volumes of stored information can have a large influence over the character and quality 
of their work outcomes. People often become highly skilled at cooperatively defining 
and using content organization schemes that are based on the tools available to them 
and the domain specific character of their information assets. 

Interactive applications can provide clear approaches that allow workers to develop 
and maintain highly accessible information repositories during the normal course of 
their practices. Useful features and structures can allow individuals to opportunistically 
minimize the effort that they spend organizing their own outputs and discoveries, while 
at the same time making it easier to locate and make use of pertinent information. 

This category contains 7 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

11. Flexible information organization 

12. Comprehensive and relevant search 

13. Powerful filtering and sorting 

14. Uncertain or missing content 

15. Integration of information sources 

16. Explicit messaging for information updates 

17. Archived information 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore concepts for supporting work that gener- 
ates or touches large aggregations of information, whether those aggregations would 
be stored within or outside of their computing tools. By thinking about the expansion of 
information around an application over time, teams can uncover opportunities for valu- 
able features while at the same time promoting consistent approaches across the total 
scope of their products. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Defining interaction 
objects" (B), "Providing opportunities to offload effort" (E), "Enhancing information 
representation" (F), and "Supporting outcome exploration and cognitive tracing" (H) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


II . Flexible Information Organization 


Individuals and groups of knowledge workers can develop 
useful methods of organizing the content that informs 
and stems from their efforts. Product teams can envision 
functionality concepts that could allow workers to flexibly 
apply classification schemes to key interaction objects and 
categorize information in data repositories. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist is organizing clinical samples in her analysis application before she starts 
another round of experiments in a large research study. She creates groupings that 
will allow her to easily select a series of tests for the same clinical subject and 
visualize them as different phases in the same time series (see illustration). 

An architect defines a classification method for a project's material attributes in her 
building modeling application so that her team can organize material options as 
they are added to the system. At a high level, her team has decided to categorize 
materials primarily by the building areas where the will be used, and secondarily, 
by color. 

A financial trader quickly browses a market information feed, applying tags to news 
items that he sees as potentially relevant for his firm. He knows that when col- 
leagues search the same feed, results that have been tagged with categories by any 
trader within his organization will appear at the top of the list in an attention 
grabbing format. 

Organizing information into useful and usable schemes can be a primary skill for knowl- 
edge workers. Workers' practices may contain specific tasks or even entire activities 
dedicated to the act of organizing data and other artifacts. The specifics of informa- 
tion structures can vary widely within a domain or profession (Bl, B2), with different 
individuals and organizations categorizing their content to reflect different conceptual 
models (C6) and modes of working (A8). 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts that flexibly support workers' own 
information organization efforts (12, 13). These functionalities can have numerous uses, 
such as offloading memory effort (El, E2), supporting cognitive tracing (H), and promot- 
ing implicit communication (B5, C7, G4, J 1). For known, defined schemes and catego- 
ries, teams can envision a starting point of information structure, or a set of structured 
options, that users might then customize to meet their own local, top down needs (C8). 
Additionally, teams can envision bottom up organization methods that could be integral 
to workers' usage of certain functionality concepts, allowing users to apply meaningful 
categorization "along the way" to accomplishing their day to day goals (Gl). 

When product teams do not actively consider support for flexible information orga- 
nization in their application concepts, individuals and organizations may be forced to 
change how they work in order to obey the implicit structures of resulting products 
(A4, K). This adaptation process can potentially lead to confusion and error (C9, G3), as 
well as to workers creating and performing excessively effortful workarounds to keep 
information organized in a manner that suits the established realities of their practices 
(D2, D3). 


The organization 
work, planning a large 
clinical study, can 
have as much to do 
with its success as all 
of the hours of lab 
work that follow... 




Clinical 

Scientist 


Right now I'm creating a 
new set of samples in our 
information management 
tool in order to increase 
the volume of data 
collected for our lab's 
current project... 


Next, I'm organizing the 
samples by dragging them 
into groups. These defined 
groupings will help later, 
when I'm making sense of 
the resulting data... 


And everyone in the lab 
knows that each of these 
groupings represents a 
different tissue sampling 
time in a series of readings 
taken during the duration 
of a long clinical trial... 



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How do targeted knowledge workers and organizations 
currently organize information in its physical form, in interactive 
applications, and in shared repositories? How might your 
team’s application concepts support these existing practices 
while at the same time providing relevant new opportunities to 
classify and categorize valued content? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Who generally defines the organizational schemes and standards that people 
currently use in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? Are there 
both top down and bottom up sources of standardization? 

How do these standards vary within your targeted markets? 

How have these schemes evolved into their present states over time? Historically, 
what forces have typically driven updates? 

How frequently do classifications and categorizations change? 

How do targeted knowledge workers' different roles and goal orientations currently 
drive different uses of the same information schemes? 

How do people use the language of information categories to create common 
ground, facilitating collaborative sense making and action? 

What expectations around information organization have workers developed from 
using other interactive applications? 

How might the addition of your computing tool into certain work practices affect 
how volumes of information could be usefully organized? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other domains could 
valuably inform your team's ideation around relevant information organization 
concepts? 

What inherently useful organizing structures could be present in the relationships 
between and among your sketched interaction objects and functionality concepts? 

What conventional interaction options and design patterns could allow users to 
flexibly create and appropriately apply needed organization schemes? 

What new top down or bottom up categorization and classification options might 
people opportunistically make use of? 

What novel functionality concepts might your team envision to decrease or remove 
effort that would otherwise be needed to organize information in desirable ways? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B4, C5, E, F, I 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


12. Comprehensive and Relevant Search 


Knowledge workers frequently need to locate stored interaction 
objects and onscreen information based on a variety of 
parameters. Product teams can envision tailored functionality 
concepts for specific types of goal oriented searches, as well 
as flexible query assembly and results representation options 
for unexpected and variable search needs. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader uploads a list of 175 securities in order to search his firm's expan- 
sive holdings. After quickly scanning the available quantities of each item in the list, 
he then searches within the results to find out what proportion of current holdings 
for each security has been untouched for over a week (see illustration). 

An architect receives a call from a construction site about a flooring installation 
process. She uses her building modeling application to search for any project speci- 
fication content that references "flooring" or "adhesive" in the "northern foyer." 

She views the results both in a table and within a 3D wireframe of the structure. 

A scientist users her analysis application to search a massive database shared by 
several cooperating clinical research labs. She is looking for only those clinical data 
that contain both a certain genetic marker and treatment method. 

Knowing how to effectively locate specific information can be a primary skill for knowl- 
edge workers, and individuals may develop diverse searching strategies to accomplish 
their goals (A6, A7, A8). 

The pervasiveness and utility of search in a variety of user experiences can set very high 
expectations. Meeting these expectations in knowledge work applications can require 
product teams to envision possible intersections of workers' information seeking tasks 
(A), diverse metadata (B2, B5, B6), integrated data sources (15), high level algorithmic 
approaches, and other factors. 

Beyond typical, open, textual input methods, product teams can envision supplemen- 
tary search options and approaches that are grounded in the specifics of targeted work 
practices (B, II). To facilitate certain frames of understanding and discovery, teams can 
also explore concepts for interactive results formats that complement conventional 
results tables (F3, F7). Thinking holistically (C4), teams can envision how using search 
functionality could be one operation or task within larger progressions of information 
seeking behavior (F4, Gl), which many involve filtering, sorting, and re-representing 
data sets (F8, 13). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of comprehensive and 
relevant search in their application concepts, resulting tools may not adequately sup- 
port workers' goals. Excluded or poorly implemented search functionality can cause 
people to "lose time" scanning though volumes of onscreen content (D3). Additionally, 
users may not locate or discover key information, leading them to incorporate less rel- 
evant items into their work outcomes (G3, K5, LI). To mitigate these issues, individuals 
and organizations may spend more effort in communication (J) and in organizing their 
data assets (D2). 


I've got a long list of 
requested security 
names that has been 
passed my way... 

I need to check on our 
holdings for all of 
these ASAP... 


Financial 

Trader 



So I'm going to list search... 


And I'm pasting the whole 
list into this search tool... 


Results. Good. It looks like 
we have most of them... 

Going a bit further, I'm 
searching within these to 
see which holdings we've 
had at our firm for longer 
than a week... 



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Given the ubiquitous value of search functionality in many 
computing experiences, how might search play a useful role 
in your team’s application concepts? What interaction objects 
and stored information might targeted knowledge workers be 
looking for as part of their work practices, and what search 
tools and results representations could effectively help them 
to find it? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What types of information retrieval and discovery goals do targeted individuals 
currently have within the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How do these goals fit within the narrative arcs of certain tasks and larger activities? 

How variable are targeted workers' information seeking approaches? 

What commonalities might your team identify across these behaviors? 

What expectations for search functionality have workers developed from using 
other computing tools? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other domains could 
valuably inform your team's ideation around relevant search functionalities? 

What inherent data attributes, such as the characteristics of interaction objects, 
could potentially be searched on in your application concepts? 

Where might open, free text searching of these metadata support workers' existing 
information seeking goals? 

How might the adoption of new computing options into targeted work practices 
create volumes of content that could benefit from more specific information seeking 
methods? 

What tailored and specialized search functionality might your team envision for 
workers' information seeking goals? When might such "advanced" searching 
represent the norm, not the exception? 

What novel representations of search results might your team sketch with the goal 
of allowing workers to meet their information retrieval or exploration goals more 
directly and accurately? 

How could the underlying algorithms of your search concepts create content biases 
that could match workers' information seeking mindsets? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: C8, E, F, H, I 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


13. Powerful Filtering and Sorting 


When confronted with large sets of information, knowledge 
workers frequently benefit from the ability to reorder, highlight, 
or exclude specific categories of stored content. Product teams 
can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers 
to perform valuable data manipulations based on goal oriented 
criteria. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect views a table in her building modeling application that lists all of the 
named interior features within a building design. She then filters the list to view 
only those items that have changes pending approval, and the 3D building rep- 
resentation "lights up" with colors that correspond to different approval states 

(see illustration). 

A financial trader filters a shared table of today's trades so that it only shows his 
transactions. He then sorts the table by dollar value to get a general sense for his 
cash volume. 

A scientist transforms a visualization of clinical data in her analysis application to 
show only data points from one group of subjects. Data belonging to subjects in 
the study's other four experimental conditions disappear from view, revealing an 
interesting visual trend. 

Adopting computing tools to organize and store information in knowledge work can 
remove useful cues and context. With so much information carrying a similar, default 
visual weight (C8), onscreen aggregations of content may seem somehow "flat" and 
overwhelming. 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts for reordering large volumes of 
content, highlighting specific items within a content pool, or excluding information 
that does not match criteria relevant to workers' current goals (A6, A7, A8). Options 
and categories for sorting and filtering concepts can arise either from the specifics of 
targeted work practices (A) or from novel uses of available data (B). Thinking holistically 
(C4), teams can envision each of these view manipulation methods (F8, F9) as individual 
operations and tasks within larger progressions of information seeking behaviors (F4, 
Gl), which may also involve search functionality (12). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of sorting and filter- 
ing in their application concepts, opportunities to support workers' needs for isolating 
and understanding subsets of information can be lost. Individuals may find manually 
scanning though volumes of data to be excessively effortful (D2, D3), especially when 
they are familiar with the potential value of sorting and filtering options. Key categories 
of content may be more difficult to identify, locate, assess, and select (G2), potentially 
leading workers to incorporate less relevant information into their work outcomes 
(G3, K5, LI). 

Conversely, without appropriate feedback cues (D6, F10), filtering and sorting function- 
ality can lead to errors when users do not recognize or remember that these options 
are currently being applied to their views of a data set (C9, E5). 


I'm curious how much 
of this building model 
is up for approval in 
our next internal 
design review... 



Architect 


So I'm changing this view... 


And I'm filtering the 
building elements list to 
show only those items 
that are pending approval 
by the team, and then 
sorting that list by building 
location... 


The views of the model 
that are open in the left 
side of the screen also 
filter to show only this 
subset of work, which 
allows me to get a feel for 
what we will be talking 
about in our meeting... 



Beyond, or in addition to, search options, what manipulations of 
application data might targeted knowledge workers value in the 
context of their information seeking and sense making goals? 
What functionality concepts might your team envision to allow 
workers to usefully rearrange and meaningfully sift through 
larger sets of content? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Outside of using search options, what approaches do targeted individuals currently 
employ to narrow in on information within the work practices that your team is 
striving to mediate? 

How do knowledge workers currently reorder large amounts of content in order to 
meet certain goals? 

How might the adoption of new computing options into targeted work practices 
create volumes of information where some type of filtering and sorting functionality 
could be useful? 

What expectations for reordering, highlighting, or excluding information have 
targeted individuals developed from using other computing tools? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other domains could 
valuably inform your team's ideation around relevant filtering and sorting 
functionalities? 

What inherent data attributes, such as the characteristics of interaction objects, 
could become useful facets for filtering and sorting of information displays? 

Which of your sketched functionality ideas could benefit from specialized, 
contextually tailored options for sifting through and rearranging data? 

What filtering and sorting options could become standards across multiple 
functional areas within your application concepts? 

What novel interactions might your team envision to allow users to filter and 
sort the content of your sketched information representations? How could these 
methods relate to other visualizations and view transformations that you have 
envisioned? 

How might powerful filtering and sorting options break common ground between 
workers or otherwise influence collaborative practices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: E3, F, H, I 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


14. Uncertain or Missing Content 


Adopting computing tools into knowledge work practice can 
create new ambiguities around stored data, as well as aggravate 
any ambiguities that were already inherent in information 
collections. Product teams can envision functionality concepts 
that could support workers as they identify, evaluate, and act 
on uncertain and missing content. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist is reviewing a visualization of a large clinical results set in her analysis 
application. She notices a visual distinction that seems to be indicating missing data 
for one subject, prompting her to view the particular subject's data table in order to 
make a determination of what, if anything, has gone wrong (see illustration). 

A financial trader views a historical pricing graph of a particular security in his trad- 
ing application. Several intervals of the graph are flagged to show where the pricing 
information is unreliable due to too much variability between the three different 
pricing feeds that his firm uses. 

An architect opens a project in her building modeling application only to find that 
part of the 3D model has been programmatically colored red to show conflicting 
changes from different members of her team. A contextual message states that the 
segment is critically uncertain and requires resolution before any further modifica- 
tions can be made. 

Content stored in interactive applications may present knowledge workers with a vari- 
ety of surprises and problems. Large data sets can develop holes and distortions over 
time that workers must recognize and understand in order to act effectively. Colleagues 
may unexpectedly and drastically modify the characteristics of one or more interaction 
objects (B6, C7, G4, H3). Individual objects or entire repositories of data can be merged 
with like content, often with surprising results. Automations can programmatically 
generate garbled outputs after "choking" on small input abnormalities (E3, E4, E5). 

Product teams can attempt to identify these types of scenarios in their concepts for 
work mediation (A). After identifying cases that are both probable and potentially 
damaging, teams can then envision functionality concepts that could provide workers 
with appropriate visibility into potential issues (F10) and clear pathways to subsequent 
action (C4). 

When product teams do not actively consider approaches for promoting graceful han- 
dling of uncertain or missing content in their application concepts, resulting tools may 
promote certain types of errors (C9, G3) and lead to less beneficial work outcomes (LI). 
When users recognize the existence of key content problems but are not provided with 
tailored functional support, they may have difficulty determining how to proceed 
(D2, D3, K7). 

Conversely, uncertain or missing content is a characteristic part of some knowledge 
work endeavors. In these cases, the diversity of scenarios (A6, A7, A8) may be too high 
for teams to envision systematic responses, and users may find any such responses to 
be distracting and unnecessarily limiting (A9, D4, C8). 


I'm excited to get into 
this new data in my 
analysis application... 


Clinical 

dentist 


But it looks like there is 
something going awry 
with one of our data 
points, even though the 
lab has done some manual 
QC processes to ensure 
that all of these results are 
"clean" readings... 


So to investigate this 
problem point, I'm going 
to highlight its sample in 
the data table to the left.. 


It looks like maybe the 
sample was mislabeled at 
some point, because one 
of the readings is very 
different from the others 
in an unexpected way... 


See also: Bl, B5, D6, G6, H, I, K12 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


99 



Where might holes, conflicts, and unknowns appear in the 
data sets that your team’s application concepts have been 
envisioned to import, reference, or generate? What specialized 
symbologies and interactive options could help targeted 
knowledge workers to recognize and then valuably correct 
— or appropriately act around — these unstable information 
situations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 



T 


n — i 



J 



What types of anomalous information do targeted individuals currently encounter 
in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

How serious are these situations? What errors and collaborative problems can 
result? 

How frequent are different cases of uncertain or missing information? Are they rare 
exceptions or a common part of what it means to accomplish the work that your 
team is targeting? 

How do knowledge workers currently handle uncertain and missing content in their 
computing tools? What attitudes do they have about these anomalies in their 
information environments? 

Where in your team's envisioned application concepts might anomalous data 
negatively impact work practices? How likely and damaging are these cases? 

What larger design and technology trends could valuably inform your ideation 
around relevant solutions for uncertain and missing content? 

What automated checks might your product conduct in order to determine the 
presence or absence of anomalous data? 

What symbology and visual cues could communicate the existence of uncertain or 
missing content in your application's displays? What information representations 
and messaging could help targeted workers to effectively recognize, understand, 
evaluate and work through these issues? 

What interaction options could be presented in conjunction with flagged data in 
order to allow workers to take appropriate, or even mandated, next steps? 

How might your team's sketched responses for anomalous data situations relate to 
larger error prevention and handling conventions in your application concepts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


15. Integration of Information Sources 


Some knowledge work practices involve referencing or integrat- 
ing “outside” content from a variety of sources. Product teams 
can envision application concepts that could bring together 
disparate information in meaningful ways, potentially offloading 
effort that would otherwise be needed to navigate to multiple 
sources. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect likes a feature in her building modeling application that allows her to 
browse diverse information based on her current selection in the computing tool. 

For example, it may pull up similar details from previous projects within her 
studio or download reviews for a particular brand of building material from a 
leading industry website that she frequently visits (see illustration). 

A scientist has selected two online databases to use as supplemental reference in- 
formation about genetic sequences in her clinical studies. She links these databases 
to her analysis application so that when she becomes interested in a specific genetic 
sequence during her data explorations, she can easily compare reference informa- 
tion on the sequence from two different sources that she trusts. 

A financial trader knows that the market prices displayed in his trading application 
are an automatically blended average of three different pricing feeds, supplied by 
different three different vendors. 

In many knowledge work domains, the quality of workers' outputs (LI) can largely be 
based on the information that they locate and make use of while completing their ef- 
forts. While some types of work rely on a single, standard reference, many practices can 
be better supported by a variety of sources, which individuals can choose to synthesize 
or use selectively (G5). 

Based on specific understandings of information needs and use (A), product teams can 
envision functionality concepts that could positively transform how workers access 
content from valued outside sources (E3, E4). Integrated information can be presented 
in clear, potentially novel, comparative representations (F3, F5) that are tailored to 
workers' goals and approaches (F). When applicable, teams can also envision scenarios 
and design concepts for promoting the serendipitous discovery of unexpected and use- 
ful external content (G6). 

Choices surrounding which information sources to use can be highly political due to 
conflicting industry standards and the divergent preferences of individuals or their orga- 
nizations (A4, K3, K12). Appropriate levels of customization can make these integrative 
features more meaningful in a greater number of product adoption contexts (C8). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of outside information 
sources within their application concepts, opportunities to reduce workers' informa- 
tion seeking efforts (C4, D4) and to represent continuities across sources can be lost. 
When choosing to reference information feels like an extra step, people may be inclined 
to limit their use of outside content or to consider fewer sources, which may in turn 
reduce the creativity and quality of their work outcomes (LI). 



What information sources do targeted knowledge workers refer 
to during the specific tasks and larger activities that your team 
is striving to mediate? How might this content be valuably 
“brought inside” the bounds of your computing tool, either in 
its current format or in new, distilled views that are tailored to 
certain work goals? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which references and resources do targeted individuals know and respect? Are 
there standards, or are people more likely to turn to the breadth of the Web for 
potential options? 

What value do certain information sources provide? How do workers apply their 
relevant content? 


So I select it... 


And this panel in the tool 
tells me what has 
currently been defined 
for the selection... 


While this panel, which is 
much more inspiring, lists 
all sorts of similarities that 
the application finds. 

For example, it searches an 
open source Web database 
for building elements with 
similar forms... 





Do individuals currently use more than one source at the same time when seeking 
information? What continuities and contrasts do they look for across sources? 

Which commonly used resources and data repositories might feasibly be linked to, 
or somehow incorporated within, your team's computing tool? 

Could your firm offer its own reference content as a value added feature? What 
impact might such a service have on your design strategy and brand? 

What larger market, technology, and design trends could influence your team's 
ideas about valuably making outside information available "inside" your application 
concepts? 

When and where might certain types of integrated information provide value within 
the interactive flows of your sketched functionality concepts? 

How might useful representational characteristics of existing information sources 
be preserved or even enhanced within the boundaries of your computing tool? 

What novel interactive and representational concepts might your team envision to 
usefully distill outside information and clarify its relationships to associated content 
within your product? How might these displays valuably offload comparative 
efforts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: Cl, E, I 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


16. Explicit Messaging for Information Updates 


Content within or associated with interactive applications 
can change as a result of automated updates and knowledge 
workers’ own efforts. To prevent misconceptions and build 
confidence in information “freshness” and integrity, product 
teams can envision clear instruction and messaging around 
content updates. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader knows that the pricing information in his trading application is 
updated continuously based on current market conditions. Their database of secu- 
rity names and symbols is less dynamic, updating every weeknight at 10 PM EST to 
reflect any changes announced during the previous trading day (see illustration). 

A scientist knows that her analysis application updates certain reference informa- 
tion about genetic sequences daily and that when she views details on a specific 
sequence, the information is pulled in real time from online databases, which are 
updated more sporadically. 

An architect knows that all of the reference material about building regulations in 
her building modeling application was entered by her team at the start of the proj- 
ect. This content will not be updated unless someone on her team manually makes 
changes, which the application will then highlight as people work on related areas 
of the model. 

Understanding changes in information environments can be a necessary skill for knowl- 
edge workers. Individuals may monitor certain content to support their own under- 
standing of what progress is being made inside their organizations or in their fields at 
large (C7, G4, H3). Their investment in maintaining an ongoing understanding of certain 
information's currency can also be rooted in its potential influence on their own work 
outcomes (LI). 

The introduction of interactive computing into work practices can add new challenges 
for tracking these types of changes. For example, applications can increase the frequen- 
cy of some types of information updates through automation (E3, E4, K10) and reduce 
the effort required to make sweeping changes across multiple data objects (D2, D3). 

Product teams can map key information currency scenarios in targeted work practices 
(A) and envision functionality concepts that could support desirable awarenesses and 
understandings. These envisioned responses can include appropriate introductory 
instruction (Cl, K2), notifications (D6), and contextual visual cues (F10, Fll). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts might 
promote a consistent model and messaging approach for information updates, result- 
ing computing tools may render important transformations effectively invisible. When 
workers are presented with unexpected disruptions in content, a product's trustworthi- 
ness can suffer (K12, K13). Users may develop alternate conceptions of how and when 
content is updated, potentially causing them to act in error (C9, G3) or to incorporate 
extra actions into their practices to ensure that they are working with current content 
(D4). 



If I'm at all concerned, 

I can check on the real 
time feeds to see that they 
are always updating... 



What important information used within your team’s application 
concepts could change in ways that may be difficult to assess 
and understand? How might your computing tool communicate 
useful conceptual models and timely alerts in order to support 
workers’ understandings of information currency? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What value do targeted individuals place on understanding the "freshness" of 
different types of information in the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? 

What mental models and shared narratives do workers have about how the various 
types of information in their practices are currently updated? 

How do workers assess the currency of certain types of information that they 
encounter in their efforts? What cues do they reference? 

How can misunderstandings of information currency lead to errors? How do 
workers currently diagnose and recover from these errors? 

How might the adoption of new computing options into targeted work practices 
create volumes of information where messaging about information currency could 
be useful or necessary? 

When and where might messaging of information updates provide clarifying value 
in your team's sketched functionality concepts? 

What guiding conceptual models might your team envision to help clarify the 
process behind, and potential causes of, information updates? 


I can also see price updates 
automatically happen as I 
fill out trade tickets... 


And if I want, I can keep 
current by looking at the 
new names that are 
added to the system once 
daily and will trade in the 
market the following day.. 








1 II 1 □□□ 


1 1 



Symbol Updates 





What initial instruction could help instill these conceptual models in users as they 
adopt your computing tool? How might individual interactions around information 
currency also convey appropriate background? 

How might your team's design responses for communicating information currency 
relate to your error prevention and handling conventions? Your sketched 
approaches for supporting workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B2, C5, B6, C8, E5, G6, H 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | I. WORKING WITH VOLUMES OF INFORMATION 


17. Archived Information 


As activities progress over time, knowledge workers often 
generate information that, while valuable to their long term 
and organizational memories, may not need to be “present” or 
easily accessible. In order to improve workers’ ability to focus 
on their current efforts, product teams can envision functionality 
concepts that support archiving of completed work. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect archives all projects in her studio's building modeling application that 
have been fully constructed and occupied for over two years. Although there is no 
technical need to move old projects, everyone at her firm finds their systems easier 
to navigate when they contain only current and recent work (see illustration). 

A financial trader knows that he can view his group's transactions from the last 
three months in his trading application. Older, archived information is available on 
request, though he rarely needs to look back more than a week. 

A scientist finds that her lab is filling the capacity of their shared research database 
faster than expected. To make room for a massive new clinical study, she chooses to 
archive older studies to a separate database. 

Completed projects and dated information can fill up space and cognitively clutter a 
knowledge work environment. Given that interactive applications can house growing 
volumes of information, workers may come to value the ability to exclude selected 
older content from their day to day onscreen views. 

Product teams can envision archiving functionality based on informed predictions of 
how their computing tools will be used over time (A). Available options from associated 
storage technologies, such as off the shelf file servers or databases, may not provide 
compelling or effective support for specific archiving needs that can arise after product 
adoption (K10). Useful and usable archiving functionality can include tailored pathways 
for placing content into an archive (C4), managing archived content (B9, II), searching 
and viewing archived content (12, 13), and restoring archived content to an active state. 

Functionality concepts for archiving can invoke the feeling of separation and distance 
between active and archived information (Gl). Even though this feeling can be some- 
what artificial in a technical sense, it may be a useful notion when envisioning instruc- 
tion (K2, K6, K7) and visual representations (F10, L4) within archiving experiences. 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential archiving needs that are 
inherent in their application concepts, resulting tools may become unwieldy through 
extended use. Products may present workers with escalating navigation difficulties, 
decreasing clarity around current workload (D3), and increasing technical performance 
problems (K13). Users may find the circuitous paths of their own workarounds to be 
excessively effortful (D2) and prone to serious errors, such as data loss (C9, G3, K5). 


The whole studio 
is complaining that 
old projects are 
cluttering our 
building modeling 
database, so I'm 
going to archive 
some of our 
completed work... 


Architect 


I'm going through the 
projects list in our model- 
ing tool and sorting it by 
"last accessed" to see 
things that no one has 
touched for a while... 


Next, I'm going to archive 
everything that has not 
been accessed within the 
last two years, but leave 
all the unbuilt projects 
and proposals... 


And now, looking at the 
list the way that most of 
our staff looks at it, it's a 
lot easier to work with... 


See also: B2, E2, H3, 1, J7 


UUUUUU 1 II || | uuuuuu 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


102 



What information do targeted knowledge workers implicitly 
or actively “leave behind” as they move forward in the work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? How might 
your application concepts allow targeted individuals and their 
organizations to archive this content so that it is still available 
but not actively seen as part of their current efforts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How much information is currently generated in the work environments that your 
team is targeting? How much of that volume comes from your targeted tasks and 
larger activities? 

Do these volumes of information eventually become an obstacle to workers' 
successfully accomplishing their practices? 

Is the idea of archiving information already present in some way in targeted 
organizations? How are existing archives currently categorized and accessed? 

How frequently do targeted individuals review "old" work? 

What goals can trigger retrospective action? Do workers typically reopen past 
efforts briefly to find some specific information or do reopened items provide value 
over a more expansive period? 

How might current archiving needs be supported within the bounds of your team's 
application concepts? 

How might your product's preordained technologies influence your team's 
envisioning of archiving options? What larger technological trends could be 
influential? 

How might the adoption of new computing options into targeted work practices 
create new volumes of information that could benefit from being meaningfully 
separated into "current" and "archived" pools? 

How, specifically might "old" information "get in the way" in your team's primary 
functionality concepts? 

What interactive pathways might your team envision to effectively support 
processes of archiving information, managing archived content, searching for and 
viewing archived content, and restoring archived content an unarchived state? 

Which of your sketched interaction objects might serve as the basis of archiving 
interrelated and dependent collections of stored content? 

How might the states of interaction objects be used to drive archiving actions? 
Might "archived" be valuable as a distinct object state? 

How might an archive's conceptually separate, "distant" nature inform your team's 
envisioning of related visual representations and instructional content? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J. Facilitating Communication 


Valued computing tools can enhance certain 
types of direct communication while opening 
up opportunities for more ambient and 
tangential signs and messages. 

Designing for such meaningful interchange 
requires a critical understanding of where 
and how people deem communication to be 
important. 

During application envisioning, product 
teams can map and explore their onscreen 
applications’ potential roles in current and 
desired communication scenarios. 

By taking time to think through different 
possibilities for interpersonal connectivity and 
mediated interchange, teams can uncover 
opportunities to tailor their functionality 
concepts to the conversational flows of 
knowledge work practice. 


A knowledge worker's involvement in an activity often begins and ends with commu- 
nication. In between these two points, workers' may also communicate extensively as 
part of the unfolding narratives of their actions. 

Product teams can easily overlook potential communication scenarios that are inherent 
to their sketched application concepts. These scenarios can present key opportunities 
to more fully tie a computing tool into the larger trajectories of knowledge work activi- 
ties. Without sufficient consideration of these trajectories, onscreen products can easily 
become isolated islands of functionality that workers must effortfully incorporate into 
their existing communication methods. 

Given that workers may not appreciate application options that are somehow redun- 
dant with the communication channels that they are already using, product teams can 
envision useful methods of incorporating or connecting to targeted workers' existing 
channels in meaningful ways. 

Beyond associations with existing channels, teams can also envision specialized func- 
tionality concepts to support well characterized communication needs, whether offline 
or onscreen. These functionalities might support existing practices or promote new 
ones, such as new forms of situated communication within an application's own 
information locales, either in real time or asynchronously. 

This category contains 7 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Jl. Integral communication pathways 
J2. Representational common ground 
J3. Explicit work handoffs 

J4. Authorship awareness, presence, and contact facilitation 
J5. Public annotation 

J6. Streamlined standard communications 
17. Pervasive printing 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore functionality concepts that could sup- 
port communication needs within the scope of knowledge work activities that they are 
targeting. Ideation focused on how a product could mediate existing and new forms of 
communication can help teams uncover innovative and genuinely valuable opportuni- 
ties to more completely bridge cooperative and collaborative work practices. These 
bridging functions can offload certain communicative efforts and promote high compre- 
hension experiences for workers exchanging information and thinking together. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work 
mediation and determining scope" (A), "Providing opportunities to offload effort" (E), 
"Enhancing information representation" (F), and "Clarifying central interactions" (G) 
categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J1 . Integral Communication Pathways 


Computer mediated communication can become integral to 
knowledge work practices, even in cases where collaborating 
workers and stakeholders are in close proximity. Product teams 
can envision functionality concepts that could provide workers 
with clear, relevant, direct, and contextually appropriate options 
for actively communicating about important application content. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist users the integral communication options in her lab's information man- 
agement application to communicate with laboratory staff, outside vendors, and 
distant collaborators. This integration saves some work when starting communica- 
tion tasks, and it also ties communication acts and information with related labora- 
tory data in the system (see illustration). 

A financial trader just completed a complex transaction with many parts. To ensure 
that the back office workers who will process the trade have the information that 
they need, he uses his trading application to add some special instructions to the 
completed trade form. 

An architect closes her building modeling application. As the tool shuts down, 
she opts to use a function that will send a status report to selected recipients on 
her team. This report will contain a summary of changes that she has made to the 
building model during her work session. 

The ability to communicate effectively, in a variety of forms, is often a key part of 
knowledge workers' skill sets. Even though product teams may treat communication 
acts as separate tasks in their rationalizations of workers' practices (A), end users may 
not make these types of distinctions in their own mental models of their own activities. 
People can value applications that anticipate their communication needs and present 
related, contextual options (E3, E4) within the pathways of their onscreen actions. 

Product teams can look for opportunities in their sketched computing tools to provide 
clear, relevant, direct, and integrated communication choices (C4, Gl). Since not all 
communication tasks are the same, models of message frequency, timing, formality, 
importance (D3), and other dimensions can help teams envision distinct functional 
responses (A). These responses may involve interoperability (K8, K9) or full integration 
(K10) with workers' existing communication technologies. Alternately, some scenarios 
of communication may be better supported via new channels and options within the 
envisioned application itself (J5, C7, G4), rather than via existing, separate, loosely 
linked pathways. 

When product teams do not actively consider how intentional communication could 
be integrated into their application concepts, resulting tools may drive users to take 
extra, often outside, steps in order to accomplish their goals (D2). The collective toll of 
these additional communication efforts on workers' productivity and satisfaction can 
be substantial (D3). In cases where individuals place a high value on the communicative 
portions of their day to day work experiences, failure to integrally support some types 
of communication acts may convey a lack of product quality and larger utility (K3). 


Our lab's communica- 
tion is often about our 
data, so it's great that 
our information 
management tool has 
some of our existing 
ways of communicating 
built right into it... 



Clinical 

Scientist 



COMMUNICATION CHANNELS INTEGRATED INTO FUNCTIONALITY 



Why might targeted knowledge workers want to communicate 
about the various types of information that your team has 
envisioned as being part of your application concepts? With 
whom might they want to actively communicate? How could 
specific communication tasks be usefully supported through 
direct and integral functionality? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What trajectories of work practice that your team is striving to mediate involve 
intentional communication as part of their initiation or completion? 

How do targeted individuals currently communicate while cooperating or 
collaborating around information artifacts? 

What communication channels do workers use as part of targeted operations, tasks, 
and larger activities? 

Which active communication practices do workers currently find to be problematic 
or tedious? Why? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
supporting integral communication within your product? 

How might your sketched functionality concepts conveniently tie into workers' 
existing communication channels in goal oriented ways? 

What new functionality concepts might your team envision to make communication 
easier and more meaningful within targeted work practices? 

How might communication be different when recipients are not users of your 
computing tool? How could these "external" conversations remain clearly tied 
to your product? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting integral communication relate 
to your other functionality concepts for supporting cooperation, collaboration, and 
workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: B, C6, D4, D6, F, J 


Instant Messenger 


Fax 


Email 









100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


J2. Representational Common Ground 


When knowledge workers collaborate around the same repre- 
sentations of information, their communication can require less 
effort and feel more direct. To support the creation of shared 
meaning, product teams can envision functionality concepts 
that could allow workers to generate and share common 
visual ground. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect is having a phone meeting with an energy consultant. Since the specific 
design features under discussion are difficult to verbally describe, she selects an 
option in her building modeling application to share her view of a 3D display. The 
consultant, who is also using the same product, can then easily see the portions of 
the model that the architect is pointing at with her cursor (see illustration). 

A financial trader instant messages a particular trade's identifying information to a 
remote colleague. This information allows them to both have the same data pulled 
up in their respective applications while talking through an issue over the phone. 

A scientist selects a link in an email from her colleague regarding the clinical study 
that they are both working on. Her analysis application launches with its visualiza- 
tions displayed in a way that highlights the trends that her colleague mentioned 
in the email message. 

Effective communication and collaboration in knowledge work practice is often built 
upon a common ground of shared information representation (FI). When workers 
collaborate in person, they can typically establish common ground around a shared 
display, set of printouts (J7), notes, or sketches. Generally speaking, these representa- 
tions are visual artifacts, and many of them were initially created onscreen, using one 
or more computing tools. 

When, for any of a number of reasons, workers do not have the luxury of meeting face 
to face, they may attempt to establish common ground through shared communica- 
tion technologies. In some cases, based on cultural norms (Al, A8), needs for message 
persistence (I), and a variety of other factors, onscreen applications can offer desirable 
methods for "gathering around" key information. 

Product teams can envision functionality concepts, tailored to the specifics of targeted 
communication scenarios (A7), that promote useful simplicity in the act of arriving at 
a shared representational focus. 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could sup- 
port the creation of representational common ground, resulting products may decrease 
the ease and quality of workers' communications. While computers can be powerful 
tools for creating information representations (E3, E4), the highly dynamic displays 
and large volumes of stored data in many onscreen applications can make establishing 
common ground excessively difficult (D3, F8). For example, when attempting to share 
information at a distance, collaborators may find it effortful to retrace and verbalize the 
steps needed to recreate their current displays (D2, G3, H). 

See also: A. B. C5. C9. E. F. G7. J 


It's hard to talk 
about these details 
over the phone, 
so let me share my 
view of the building 
model with you... 


Architect 


I'm selecting the option... 

And you should be able to 
open my view now... 



Remote 

Collaborator 


I see your message, and 
now I can see your view... 

Oh, now I see what you're 
talking about, and I have 
an idea about how we 
might go even further 
with that change... 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


105 





1 1 




— 


What information do targeted knowledge workers currently 
share in order to make their exchanges clearer? How might 
your team’s application concepts support existing approaches 
for creating common ground? What novel functionalities might 
you envision to valuably support the sharing of information 
views within mediated communication? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How do targeted individuals currently establish common visual ground for 
communication in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? 

What value do different types of common ground provide? 

What information representations are commonly referenced in communication 
acts? What features of these representations are often important to share? 

What language and gestures do knowledge workers currently use when referring 
to their shared information artifacts? 

What breakdowns and errors in shared understanding can currently occur around 
these artifacts? How might the flexible displays of your team's computing tool 
aggravate these problems or create new ones in a similar vein? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how 
content in your application concepts could be conversationally shared? 

What conventional design patterns and functionalities might your team consider 
using in order to valuably support common ground? 

What interaction objects in your sketched product directions could extend or 
replace the information artifacts that workers currently "gather around"? 

What aspects of your functionality concepts might workers opportunistically use to 
create common ground? How could your team enhance these aspects to promote 
such use? 

What novel functionality concepts might your team envision to provide workers 
with new options to dynamically share relevant information within their 
discussions? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting representational common 
ground relate to your other concepts for supporting cooperation, collaboration, 
and workspace awareness? 

How might common ground functionality be different when recipients are not users 
of your computing tool? How could these "external" conversations remain clearly 
tied to your product? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J3. Explicit Work Handoffs 


As part of contributing to larger activities, knowledge work- 
ers often need to formally or informally handoff their efforts to 
certain colleagues and stakeholders. Product teams can envi- 
sion communication functionalities that could allow workers to 
clearly and directly deliver certain tasks or interaction objects. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader sends part of a list of offers to another trader in his group so they 
can divide up a larger pool of decision making and transactional effort, which needs 
to be resolved as soon as possible. His trading application notifies him when his col- 
league has accepted the request, allowing him to focus his efforts on the offers that 
are left on his plate (see illustration). 

A scientist defines a number of clinical samples in her lab's information manage- 
ment application. She then assigns the task of running experiments on the samples 
to a particular lab technician, who will receive the task description in his prioritized 
queue, along with links to the sample files in question. 

An architect finishes another version of a large, structural arch in her building mod- 
eling application, based on feedback from a civil engineer. She then uses a feature 
in the modeling tool to hand the component back to the same engineer for further 
review and modifications. 

The complex problems tackled in knowledge work organizations may require the input 
of several or many different individuals, roles, and skill sets. Increasing specialization 
can mean that workers provide their inputs sequentially, with related artifacts and 
responsibility being passed back and forth. 

Appropriate design approaches for supporting handoffs can vary based on whether 
they are highly structured or largely improvised. In highly structured cases (C5, C6), 
mediated handoffs can occur at defined points in targeted workflows (A9, C4). In 
improvised, emergent work scenarios (A6), options for handoffs can be provided more 
contextually, opening up opportunities for dynamic, shared decision making (G5, J) and 
the flexible offloading of effort (D2, E, A7, A8). 

To promote confidence (D3, G7, K13) and awareness (C7, G4) in handoff actions, teams 
can envision how their functionality concepts could provide workers with visibility into 
whether handed off items have been received, reviewed, and acted on by intended 
parties. 

When product teams do not actively consider how explicit work handoffs could factor 
into their application concepts, resulting products may hinder the flow of work process 
with unclear transitions and undesirably vague rules surrounding individuals' responsi- 
bilities for valued work items (C9, G3). 

Conversely, extra functionality for explicit work handoffs may not be necessary. For ex- 
ample, highly concrete work processes can exist as shared organizational norms outside 
of computing tools, reducing related technological needs. 


I am getting too many 
trading messages at 
the moment... 

I've got to delegate 
some of them in order 
to make sure that the 
work gets done fast 
enough... 


Financial 

Trader 



So I'm selecting some 
parts of my list... 

The ones that I don't need 
to handle personally... 


And now I'm sending 
those to the entire desk to 
see if anyone has the time 
to help me out... 

I will holler in a minute if 
no one picks this up... 


And, almost right away, 

I'm getting a message that 
Jon has just taken the list, 
so I don't have to think 
about it now... 



I 

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Where and when do handoffs occur in the knowledge work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? What func- 
tionality concepts might your team envision to usefully support 
certain “special deliveries” of application content, closely tying 
them to sketched features for permissions and collaboration? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What role do handoffs currently play in targeted tasks and larger activities? 

What, specifically, do targeted individuals hand off? What communication 
accompanies different types of handed off items? 

How do specific types of handoffs fit within larger trajectories of work? Are they 
elements of defined work processes or improvised distributions of effort based 
on situational needs? 

What breakdowns and errors can currently occur at handoff points? Could these 
problems represent potential opportunities for your product? 

How might existing approaches for managing work handoffs be influenced by your 
team's application concepts? 

In which work practices might your computing tool provide value by integrally 
supporting defined handoffs? 

Outside of any structured delivery points, how might your team's sketched 
functionalities support workers' more open and emergent handoff choices? 

What could the experience of handing off content be like? What feedback cues 
could allow senders to meaningfully know that their handoffs have been received, 
reviewed, or even acted on? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting explicit work handoffs relate 
to your other functionality concepts for supporting cooperation, collaboration, 
and workspace awareness? For tailoring views of application content to particular 
identities? 

How might handoff options be different when recipients are not users of your 
computing tool? How could "external" work remain clearly tied to your product? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B, D5, H2, H3 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J4. Authorship Awareness, Presence, and Contact Facilitation 


Product teams can envision concepts for informative cues 
that could indicate who has worked, or is working, within a 
given functional area or on specific interaction objects. These 
cues can facilitate spontaneous communication between 
colleagues, both near and remote, and promote the traceability 
of distributed efforts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist uses her laboratory's information management system to find out who 
accomplished several different experimental tasks on a particular clinical sample. 

She discovers which lab technician ran the sample through a certain instrument, 
and, seeing that he is currently online, she clicks on his name to launch a chat 
session, asking if he is free to talk (see illustration). 

An architect uses her building modeling application to look up which team mem- 
bers made a particular set of changes to a design. She sees that one of the change's 
authors is currently logged into the shared tool, so she walks over to have a conver- 
sation with him at his desk. 

A financial trader looks in his trading application to see whether any of his col- 
leagues are currently trading at his firm's London office. If they are, he can simply 
click on their name to initiate a voice chat. 

In offline practices, workers can often trace the author of a change through handwrit- 
ing and other artifacts of how previous efforts were accomplished. Knowing if someone 
is available for conversation can mean looking across the room, going for a walk to 
another building location, or picking up the phone. 

Product teams can envision a variety of functional responses that could create surro- 
gates for physical cues, which may be lost when transitioning certain efforts and atten- 
tions to the screen. Teams can also consider how their computing environment might 
usefully enhance certain identity oriented possibilities. Automatically recorded trials of 
authorship data can be tied to specific interaction objects or functional areas (B, E3), 
becoming an essential part of their stored histories (H3) and enhancing workers' larger 
awareness of the actions of others within an application workspace (C7, G4). Author- 
ship cues can also serve as a bridge for contacting relevant colleagues in order to clarify, 
extend, and question their work outcomes (LI). 

When product teams do not actively consider the potential role of authorship and user 
presence cues in their application concepts, opportunities to promote effective com- 
munication and coordination can be lost. Workers may find it frustratingly difficult to 
discover who was responsible for particular changes (D2, D3), which may drive them to 
develop tedious and error prone work arounds (C9, G3, 17). And while contact facilita- 
tion can often be supported with separate, outside technologies, considering how this 
intent could be satisfied with integral functionality may allow teams to identify key, 
direct communication interactions in relation to their tools' valuable data (C4, D4, Jl). 

Conversely, too much visibility into the actions of others can be distracting (D4) and 
can potentially lead to unwanted surveillance effects (A2, G7). 


During the course of 
checking our lab's 
latest data, I found 
a sample presenting 
very interesting 
results... 



And now I'm looking in 
our information manage- 
ment application to see 
who ran the experiment 
and what equipment they 
ran it on... 


It says here it was mostly 
run by Brian and partially 
run by Anne. Since Brain 
took the final readings, I'm 
going to look to see if he's 
currently online... 


And since he's logged into 
a workstation, I'm starting 
up a chat session to talk to 
him about this potentially 
breakthrough data... 


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With the goal of enhancing useful communication among users, 
how might your team’s application concepts contextually 
present historical and real time cues about the “who” of others’ 
actions and presence? How might targeted knowledge workers 
use these cues to initiate situated conversations? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What circumstances in the work practices that your team is striving to mediate 
currently lead people to investigate who has previously acted on an information 
artifact? 

How do targeted individuals and their organizations currently keep track of 
authorship in various contexts? 

What are the cultural norms, regulatory rules, and political implications around 
tracking worker's actions in targeted organizations? How is authorship information 
currently used in formal, procedural workflows and the evaluation of critical 
incidents? 

Which tasks or larger activities currently involve impromptu, real time 
communications? Which are accomplished in relative seclusion? 

How do targeted workers currently keep track of which colleagues are presently 
available for communication? How do they typically initiate conversations? 

What larger design trends and advanced analogies to other domains could influence 
your team's ideas about thoughtfully highlighting authorship and presence 
information in your application concepts? 

How might examining your sketched functional areas and interaction objects 
from the goal orientations of users' own collaborators help your team to envision 
different concepts for identity and presence cues? 

How might "created by" and "modified by" attributes in interaction objects provide 
value in cooperative and collaborative work practices? 

How might cues about individuals' actions or current presence be used as a means 
of initiating contact with them? What interruption effects may result on the 
receiver's end in these scenarios? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting authorship, presence 
information, and contact facilitation relate to your other functionality concepts 
for supporting cooperation, collaboration, and workspace awareness? 

What unwanted surveillance effects could unintentionally occur from strongly 
connecting users' identities and activities to specific application data? 

What other privacy and security issues could be important to consider when 
envisioning functionalities that could be used to track workers' actions and 
lightweight, unstructured conversations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C5, D, E, Fll 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J5. Public Annotation 


When workers make annotations in a specific context, they can 
direct their commentary to an intended audience, potentially 
reducing the difficulty of composing their communications. 
Product teams can envision concepts that could allow workers 
to annotate selected functional areas or interaction objects in 
ways that are visible and meaningful to desired recipients. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect uses her building modeling application to work on early studies for the 
overall form of a new hospital. As she creates different versions of a central form 
idea, she inserts annotations of her design rationale in the models, knowing that 
these notes will be visible when she eventually presents the options to her col- 
leagues, or if anyone happens to take the initiative to review the files on their 
own time (see illustration). 

A scientist uses her analysis application to review a number of data sets that have 
been recently generated in her clinical lab's ongoing experiments. As she explores 
the new results, she leaves comments about each data set so that when colleagues 
in her lab later review the study, they can agree or disagree with her interpretations. 

A financial trader, at the end of his work day, posts some thoughts on some recent, 
high value deals to a shared area of his trading application. He knows that col- 
leagues in other global locations will likely read these notes when they first log in 
to start their day. 

Successful knowledge work can rely on meaningful graffiti of a sort. Workers may place 
annotations in specific contexts, to be viewed by an anticipated "public" that will pre- 
sumably interact with that location at a later time (C5). In some circumstances, these 
"markings" may only be valuable for a set duration. In other cases, contextual annota- 
tions can become essential elements of work artifacts, providing persistent, historical 
value in organizational memory (17). 

Although public annotations are often created for communication purposes, they can 
also serve as working annotations (H2) that offload workers' individual or collective 
memory effort (El, E2), thereby supporting later reconstruction and cognitive tracing 
(H). Like working annotations, product teams can envision functional support for public 
annotation as textual notes, onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attach- 
ments, links, and other means. 

When product teams do not actively consider how public annotation could be support- 
ed in their application concepts (Jl), resulting products may drive workers to use other 
media and communication channels in relation to certain onscreen content. These 
outside annotations may be difficult to coordinate with corresponding points within a 
computing tool (Bl, B2, FI). The act of turning to outside media and channels can also 
be more effortful (D2, D3) than making a note directly where one is presently work- 
ing. Lastly, real time communication used in place of public annotations may demand 
receivers' attentions at inappropriate times (D4). 


I'm trying out different 
rough forms for a new 
building that our firm 
is putting together a 
proposal for... 



Architect 


We don't have many 
requirements from the 
client, so as I create 
different model forms, 

I am typing up some 
comments that outline 
my rationale... 


And I'm connecting the 
comment text to related 
areas within the draft 
building model... 


And that way, when we 
are comparing different 
options, anyone on the 
team can use this view to 
read my ideas and 
justifications... 



J 



\ 



Where, when, and how do knowledge workers currently 
annotate shared artifacts and environments in the work 
practices that your team is striving to meditate? How might 
targeted workers valuably communicate by annotating your 
product’s functional areas and interaction objects with 
intended recipients in mind? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What workplace locations or objects in targeted organizations currently receive 
public annotations? What form can these annotations take? 

What value do these public communications often provide within current work 
practices? Who are the intended audiences of specific kinds of annotations? 

Who else may view them? 

What duration do various types of annotations have? Are they relatively static or 
are they iteratively placed and revised in a form of asynchronous conversation? 

Which communication scenarios in your team's application concepts might be 
usefully supported through contextual notes and markings rather than interrupting, 
"separate" messages? 

What methods of annotation could be appropriate, based on characterized 
communication needs, in your differing functionality concepts? Might textual notes, 
onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attachments, or links be useful? 

How could visual representations of public annotations contextually tie them to 
their onscreen subjects? 

Who should be able to view whose notes, based on their permissions within your 
computing tool? How might workers select certain audiences for their annotations? 

What useful supplemental interactivity and information might your team envision 
around various public annotations? For example, should workers be able to set 
durations after which their notes will fade from prominence? 

How will collaborators discover that an annotation is present? Might contextual 
flags and synchronous messaging be useful to ensure that certain annotations are 
viewed by intended parties? 

What supplemental attributes, such as a timestamp and authorship information, 
could be usefully included as part of public annotations? 

What privacy and security issues could be important to consider when envisioning 
functionalities that would track workers' lightweight, unstructured conversations? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting public annotation relate to 
your other functionality concepts for supporting cooperation, collaboration, 
and workspace awareness? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B6, J 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J6. Streamlined Standard Communications 


Knowledge work often involves established, commonly shared 
genres of communication that play important roles in work 
activities and organizational memory. Product teams can 
envision functionality concepts that could provide workers with 
opportunities to offload some or all of the effort of creating, 
distributing, and interpreting these standard forms. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader selects a deal in his trading application that he just made in error, 
then chooses an option to send a cancellation notice to his counterparty. The appli- 
cation generates a standard message with all of the necessary information to cancel 
the trade, and he adds a personal note to apologize for his miscalculation before 
sending it off (see illustration). 

An architect wants a drawing of a building's proposed north elevation to show her 
client. She instructs her building modeling application to automatically export a 
conventional elevation drawing based on a template that her studio has designed 
for this type of output. 

A scientist exports a canned report from her laboratory information management 
application. The compact, shareable document contains a set of standard data 
representations for a single clinical sample. 

Knowledge workers often create conventional, expected discourse forms that can ease 
the communication burdens placed on both senders and receivers. From the perspec- 
tive of individuals creating and distributing a communication, standard formats can 
scope the content of a fully formed message, shape the presentation of included 
content (F2), and define message recipients (A2, G7). From the receiver's perspective, 
conventional discourse forms can aid in interpretation and invoke specific understand- 
ings around a sender's intended purpose and meanings. 

Depending on just how standard these established forms of communication are, prod- 
uct teams can envision functionality concepts that could valuably offload some or all of 
the effort (E3, E4) of creating, distributing (C4), and interpreting certain types of mes- 
sages. There may also be opportunities to systematically improve the quality of specific 
message types through standardization (LI). 

When product teams do not actively consider potential streamlining of standard com- 
munications in their application concepts, opportunities to support common discourse 
needs in knowledge work can be lost. When the intents behind these standard formats 
are not adequately supported, resulting applications can create communication fis- 
sures in targeted activities. Individuals and organizations may perceive these fissures 
as product deficiencies that overlook key opportunities to improve work efficiency 
and outcomes (D2, D3, K3). 

Conversely, any standardization and automation of communication can carry certain 
risks and stifling drawbacks. Preformatted outputs may force the inclusion of some 
types of information, exclude needed categories of content, and constrain representa- 
tion in unwanted ways (F, LI). 


Damn. I can't believe 
that I just booked 
that deal... 



Okay. I'm finding the 
messed up deal in the list 
of completed trades... 

And choosing an option 
to send a cancellation 
notice... 


The tool automatically 
creates a message with all 
of the info filled in, which 
saves me a lot of work... 

These cancel forms have 
been around forever, but 
they used to be faxed... 


And now I'm just typing a 
little apology and then 
sending this off into their 
email... 

I'll give them a call as well 
to discuss the problem... 





What standard communication formats are currently used in 
the knowledge work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? What functionality concepts might your team envision 
to valuably automate and enhance the standardized portions of 
these communication tasks while still providing desirable levels 
of expressiveness and control? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How standard, in reality, are the conventional communications that are currently 
used within targeted organizations? Which are not very standard at all — from the 
rationalizing perspective of a product team defining a new computing tool? 

How do targeted individuals use highly defined types of communication in their 
own operations, tasks, and larger activities? 

What goals can trigger workers to create these communication forms? Who are 
they sent to? How frequent are different cases? 

Do workers typically create these formal communications to ensure their 
persistence in organizational memory, or do people actually value how these 
formats can shape the scope and the content of their exchanges? 

Who defined the standard formats that are currently in use? Have there been 
both top down and bottom up sources of standardization? 

How have these schemes evolved into their present states over time? 

What improvements might your team envision to enhance the usefulness and 
clarity of existing formats? 

What functionality concepts might you sketch to support workers as they seek to 
offload effort that would otherwise be needed to create, distribute, and interpret 
high volume and consistently formatted communications? 

Where in your team's models of work mediation might you identify new 
opportunities for valuable, largely automated standardization of communication 
outputs? 

What flexibility might workers want in order to tailor standard communications to 
meet their local and situational goals? What options could allow them to informally 
annotate otherwise formal outputs? 

Which contexts within your application concepts could valuably present clear and 
direct pathways for interactively creating defined communications? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B, C8, E, HI, H4, II, 17, J 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | J. FACILITATING COMMUNICATION 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


J7. Pervasive Printing 


Many knowledge work tasks, including communication acts, 
can revolve around or be facilitated by paper documents. 
Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could 
allow workers to create various types of printouts while 
maintaining traceability back to their onscreen sources. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist prints a series of visualizations in her analysis application and passes 
them out as handouts in a laboratory meeting. The series of printed pages allows 
the group to collectively see a large clinical data set from a variety of perspectives. 
As they spot trends, she writes notes on her own set of printouts and dives into 
further visualizations on a shared projection screen (see illustration). 

An architect tries to work as much as feasible in her building modeling application 
so that her team can have access to her changes in something close to real time. 
However, there are still many parts of the design process, such as early ideation or 
the collaborative marking of quick corrections, where she finds it easier to sit at a 
table with her colleagues and communicate around printouts. 

A financial trader prints a problematic trade and hands it to a colleague. This inter- 
change provides him with strong confirmation that the work, and all of the neces- 
sary information around it, has been handed off. 


I sometimes print out 
analysis work to share 
it in a lab meeting or 
to mark it up with 
hand written notes... 



PRINTOUTS SHARED 
IN FACE TO FACE MEETING 


How do targeted knowledge workers currently use paper 
documents in the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate? How might your team’s application concepts allow 
workers to easily create valuable paper outputs of onscreen 
representations and content? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What affordances of paper documents do targeted individuals and organizations 
currently value? 

How do off screen documents currently facilitate communication and collaboration? 

How do targeted knowledge workers use paper instantiations of information to 
offload and distribute mental effort, such as short or long term memory burdens? 

What role do printed records play in current approaches to progress tracking and 
archiving? 

Which of your team's sketched interaction objects might be useful in printed form? 

When could persistent printouts of larger views within your computing tool be 
useful in the context certain tasks or larger activities? 


Repeated predictions of paperless futures, facilitated by computing in the workplace, 
have not come true. The reality of knowledge workers' observed practices often reveals 
that off screen representations of information, such as paper printouts, can afford many 
useful actions that are not yet commonly available in interactive computing. Because 
of these special affordances, workers may view printing functionality as a broad and 
pervasive necessity throughout their computing tools (A9). 

Product teams can build upon their understandings of document usage in targeted 
work practices to envision potential printing functionalities within their application 
concepts. Standard printout formats can become essential and meaningful components 
in some tasks or larger activities (A, F). In communication acts, printed outputs can 
become transitory display media (HI) or formal outputs of work (J6, LI). People may 
appropriate printouts to support and track their explorations of potential outcomes 
(H), using paper "snapshots" to extend the effective areas of their computer displays 
through time. Individuals, groups, and organizations can also use paper records as a 
means of externally offloading memory efforts (El, E2, II, 17). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers might want to 
incorporate printing into their work practices, resulting applications may drive users to 
effortfully work around these limitations in order to make information available outside 
of their screens (D2, D3). In such cases, key benefits of accomplishing printing tasks 
from within a computing tool itself, such as formatting control or maintaining ties back 
into associated application content, may be lost (B3, FI). 



And the notes that I take 
during our lab meeting 
discussions then feed back 
into my work in the 
analysis software... 


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Where might targeted workers' off screen needs be common and frequent enough 
to provide tailored printing functionality for certain data perspectives? 

What current printing needs could potentially be "solved" through onscreen 
interaction? Is the act of printing certain information currently a work around 
for clear deficiencies in current tools? 

What general functionality concepts might your team envision to allow for selective 
printing of a broad range of application content types? What conventional design 
patterns and functionalities might you consider referencing? 

In what situations might it make sense for the information representations of 
printed outputs to be slightly different than how the same content is viewed 
onscreen? 

What format improvements and supporting content might your team envision 
for the static medium of print? 

What identifying information could help workers to tie the contents of a given 
printout back into your computing tool? 

What formatting and content flexibility might workers want in order to tailor 
printouts to meet their local and situational goals? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: J, Gl, G7 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


K. Promoting Integration 
into Work Practice 

Valued computing tools can be designed to 
make “getting up to speed” as painless as 
possible. 

Designing for such easy integration requires a 
clear understanding of the gaps that people will 
need to bridge in order to make use of a tool. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can map and explore how targeted knowledge 
workers and their organizations might integrate 
new onscreen offerings into their working 
cultures and technological systems. 

By taking time to explore potential product 
adoption experiences — in an expansive sense 
— teams can identify opportunities to set 
the stage for direct, trusted, extensive, and 
meaningful use. 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


111 


Although technologies can deterministically drive some changes once they are made 
part of working cultures, only individuals and organizations can truly determine 
whether computing tools will be successfully adopted into their own environments. 
Technologies do not create major cultural changes on their own, and brand messaging, 
or other background context, can only provide a frame for users' embedded, concrete, 
and personal experiences with a new product. That being said, the particular design 
characteristics of an application can play a major role in whether and how integration 
into practice occurs. 

Rather than waiting for their technologies to be finished before thinking through 
potential adoption hurdles, product teams can consider adoption scenarios as part 
of generating their essential design strategy, envisioning services and functionality 
concepts to ease important learning and systemic challenges. Teams can envision these 
offerings and approaches as much broader responses than conventional, somewhat 
dissociated "user assistance," anticipating common needs and connecting with 
knowledge workers in meaningful and lasting ways. 

This category contains 13 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Kl. Application localization 

K2. Introductory user experience 

K3. Recognizable applicability to targeted work 

K4. Verification of operation 

K5. Understanding and reframing alternate interpretations 

K6. Design for frequency of access and skill acquisition 

K7. Clear and comprehensive instructional assistance 

K8. Seamless inter-application interactivity 

K9. Directed application interoperation 

K10. Openness to application integration and extension 

Kll. End user programming 

K12. Trusted and credible processes and content 

K13. Reliable and direct activity infrastructure 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore specific means of supporting individual 
users, and larger customer organizations, as they transition from current practices to 
practices mediated by their new or updated computing tools. Early ideation and 
concepting focused on that support, rather than post hoc efforts during the final 
stages of a product's development, can help teams more fully integrate supportive 
options into their products' available user experiences. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work 
mediation and determining scope" (A), "Considering workers' attentions" (D), and 
"Planning connection with use" (M) categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K1 . Application Localization 


Product teams can envision support in their application 
concepts for individuals from different cultural backgrounds. 
Targeted knowledge worker populations can have different 
wants and needs for the linguistic, symbolic, layout, and 
procedural aspects of their computing tools. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect from Seattle is using a different computer during a visit to the Beijing 
office of her firm. She is pleased to learn that she can change the language from 
Mandarin to English in her own view of their shared building modeling application. 
This does not change the text of the informal notes that her Chinese colleagues 
have entered into design files, but it does allow her to navigate the application's 
interface labels in her native language (see illustration). 

A financial trader from New York, visiting the London office of his firm, finds that UK 
traders have set up their shared trading application to display their preferred spell- 
ing, time, and date standards. They have also added a number of UK specific fields 
in their standard trading forms that are not needed in the US domestic market. 

A scientist in San Francisco sends a clinical study file from her analysis application 
to a German colleague. She takes for granted that when her colleague opens it, the 
study file will be viewable in the localized, German language version of the software. 

Many types of contemporary knowledge work are practiced in a number of global 
locations (Al), potentially driving a variety of application localization requirements. 

Even within a single customer organization, there can exist a diverse array of 
localization wants and needs. 

Many product teams take for granted a certain linguistic and representational perspec- 
tive when creating their computing tools. And, from within the influences of globaliza- 
tion, targeted workers may be familiar and somewhat comfortable with the experience 
of interpreting interfaces in a non native language (D2). 

When a team does not wish to push their cultural frame onto their potential users, or 
cannot afford the impact of such a decision on their product's brand, they can envision 
localization approaches and functionality concepts based on targeted understandings of 
their intended audiences. While the languages available for display in an interface are 
often the most important localization factor (Bl, C8), localization of symbolic content (F, 
K5), screen layout (C2, C4), and support for local variations in knowledge work practice 
(A7, A8) can also be crucial. 

When product teams do not actively consider potential localization requirements for 
their application concepts, opportunities to be competitive in a broader range of mar- 
kets (M4) may be lost. Knowledge workers in markets outside of a resulting product's 
originating region may face longer learning processes (D7, K2, K6) and a higher rate of 
errors (C9, G3). Additionally, teams may find it difficult to retrofit localization needs in 
a post hoc way due to their extensive, often structural, nature in interface design. 

Conversely, intensive localization may negatively impact representational coordination 
and common ground between a product's audiences (FI, J2). 


Sitting here in the 
Beijing office, the user 
interface of our firm's 
building modeling tool 
is in Mandarin... 



Architect 


So my colleague here told me how to 
change my language setting... 



All user generated 
content in this 
panel remains 
untranslated 
from Mandarin 


local language... 


And now the application itself is in English... 

But I will still need someone to translate all of the 
comments and info in this building model, because 
it was all typed in by this project team in the 


In what localization intensive markets might your team be 
striving to provide a viable and desirable computing tool for 
knowledge work? What aspects of your application concepts 
could benefit from early envisioning around targeted local 
wants, needs, and opportunities? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What global markets might your team be targeting with your application, based 
on your emerging ideas about product strategy? 

What impacts might the inclusion of various markets have on the sketched design 
strategies and brand positionings of your application concepts? 

What separate linguistic audiences are likely to use your computing tool within and 
across these global regions? 

What information does your team have about the specific localization needs within 
the breadth of your targeted audience segments? What do you not know? 

How might this information impact your sketched directions for the linguistic, 
symbolic, layout, and procedural aspects of your application concepts? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideas about 
localization of your computing tool? 

How might you prioritize localization needs in relation to other product design 
constraints? Which of these needs are strictly necessary? Which are desirable, 
"nice to haves"? 

How could specific localization requirements influence the approach of your 
envisioned functionality concepts? Your sketches for high level application 
structures? 

What unique opportunities could be present within your targeted locales? What 
design concepts might your team generate in order to explore these opportunities? 

How might localization of shared views interfere with representational common 
ground in cooperative and collaborative work practices? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C, G6, I, J6, K, L4, M 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K2. Introductory User Experience 


Product teams can envision how their application concepts 
could promote initial experiences that generate interest, instill 
confidence, clearly communicate essential information, and 
offer a direct foundation for committed adoption. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist launches her new analysis application for the first time and is presented 
with a set of interactive tutorials, each of which highlights one of several uses of the 
product. She selects an option that matches her clinical research goals and navigates 
through a well produced introductory tour (see illustration). 

An architect who has never used a building modeling application is anxious about 
making the switch from a more traditional CAD approach. The new tool presents a 
series of contextual training features, which allow her to learn about specific 
options at her own pace. 

A financial trader accesses a new version of his trading application and is presented 
with an option to view what has been updated in the latest release. From this quick, 
informative overview, he knows which new features he wants to try and which 
ongoing issues have been fixed. 

Many contemporary computing tools for knowledge work do not excel at introduc- 
ing themselves. Even when workers have been exposed to marketing materials, have 
decided that a brand and value proposition are compelling, and have acquired a new or 
improved tool, introductions are not yet complete until potential users have explored 
an application in their own activity contexts. 

Individuals and organizations often do not have time to experiment with computing 
products (D3, K3). Knowledge workers may trust their early opinions about the desir- 
ability of an interactive application, especially when other product options are easily 
available. 

Product teams can envision concepts for introductory functionalities that appear on the 
first occasion that a worker accesses an application or are spread across several early 
uses of a new tool. While application concepts with highly directive interaction models 
(C2) may require less introduction, products centered around open workspaces or novel 
conceptual models (Cl, K5) may be understood faster and more completely with a 
scaffolding of initial instruction and suggested first steps (C4, Gl, K7). 

When product teams do not actively consider how their application concepts could 
drive meaningful early experiences, opportunities to make a product more desirable, 
to arm workers with useful understandings, and to prevent beginners' errors (C9, G3) 
can be lost. People may need to spend more effort determining what practices they can 
accomplish within an application (A, D2), how to verify its operation (K4), how to get 
started with their activities, and other key factors for making a computing tool integral 
to their own work. 

Conversely, too much introduction can detract from direct engagement with the prod- 
uct functionality that workers will eventually use once they have chosen to fully adopt 
a tool. 


It's always daunting to 
open a new application 
for the first time, 
especially when it's as 
complicated as new 
analysis software... 




Clinical 

Scientist 


So it's giving me a list of 
questions about how I 
want to use the tool in 
order to give me some 
sort of customized tour.. 


It feels pretty slick, so I'm 
going to go ahead and 
enter what analysis tools I 
have used and what my 
research goals are... 


And it's suggesting a list of 
video tutorials that I might 
be interested in, or I can 
skip all this and then 
check them out later... 




Based on your team’s understanding of targeted workers’ 
current practices and background knowledge, what might they 
need to know in order to “get started” using your computing 
tool? What functionality concepts might your team envision to 
provide appropriate and dynamic instruction during these early 
user experiences? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What domain knowledge, existing skills, learned interaction expectations, and other 
background will targeted individuals likely bring to their early interactions with your 
team's product? 

What big picture gaps might exist — at the overall level of your envisioned 
application concepts — between what workers already know and what they may 
need to know in order to have positive user experiences with your offerings? 

What learning gaps might your team identify for each of your foundational 
functionality concepts? 

What larger design trends and advanced analogies to other products and domains 
could influence your ideas about "out of the box" instructional experiences? 

What conventional design patterns for early tutorials and topical "crash courses" 
might your team consider using? 

What initial instruction concepts might you envision to provide an overview of your 
product's intended role in workers' practices? 

What targeted concepts might you sketch with the goal of bridging specific, well 
characterized learning gaps? 

What emotive and brand implications might your team focus on while exploring 
concepts for introductory experiences? 

What media formats and visual approaches could appropriately represent certain 
types of instructional content in clear and engaging ways? 

How might users' experiences with initial instruction offerings generate interest and 
instill confidence in your computing tool? 

How might your concepts for initial instruction provide a foundation for, and 
potentially tie into, your other, more persistent user assistance options? 

What interaction pathways could flow out of introductory experiences? How might 
users test new learnings through direct, constructive experimentation within your 
computing tool? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: Bl, C, F10, Fll, H, 17, K, L4, M 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K3. Recognizable Applicability to Targeted Work 


In order to communicate to potential users that the particulars 
of their work practices have been thoroughly considered, 
product teams can envision legible domain cues within their 
application concepts. When these cues are easily recognizable, 
knowledge workers may be more inclined to consider how they 
might use a new technology in their own activities. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect likes that her new building modeling application uses language, conven- 
tions, and workflow that are specific to the practice of architecture. Other collab- 
orative design products she has tried using in the past felt more like overly general 
3D modeling tools that required her to excessively translate her ideas into arbitrary 
commands and design shapes (see illustration). 

A scientist finds that the features of her new analysis application are geared specifi- 
cally to the types of clinical data explorations that she performs in her research. 
Whereas the general "data mining" tools her lab is migrating away from seemed 
arbitrary and unnecessarily difficult to learn, her new tool seems very approachable 
and relevant. 

As a financial trader quickly scans the menus and field names of the trial version of 
a new market information application, he recognizes standard options and function- 
alities that he is accustomed to using. 

People judge how onscreen products could apply to their goals, while also consider- 
ing any new opportunities that a application may facilitate. Computing tools that are 
intended for specific knowledge work practices can intentionally invoke their specializa- 
tions through inherent branding and design. When targeted workers somehow see their 
own professional practices in a product's details, they may develop a focused interest in 
the tool, which can then evolve into committed adoption. 

What this recognition may mean is highly contingent on the specifics of a given domain 
and the scope of work that a tool is intended to mediate. Given that expectations of ap- 
plicability must be met with corresponding functional value, potential cues can include 
product genre (Cl), interaction conventions (C2, L2), specialized language (Bl) or 
information representations (F2), iconic design references (L3), and other domain 
specific elements (K2). 

Product teams deliberately envisioning more generalized applications, to be used in 
multiple domains or markets, may face the challenge of not being able to leverage 
obvious references from any one specialty (A). Even without these literal cues, teams 
can uncover commonalities in work activities across specialties and then use these 
similarities to reveal legible, goal directed cues in their designs (B9, C4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how they could make their application 
concepts a clearly recognizable part of the work that they are striving to mediate, re- 
sulting tools may fare poorly in workers' intuitive, "snap" judgments of utility. Depend- 
ing on the market context, these judgments can impact both individual and organiza- 
tional attitudes about acquiring and adopting products and brands (K). 

See also: Dl, F10, Gl, L4, M 



PREVIOUS APPLICATION CURRENT APPLICATION 




"Side view" 
"Rectangle tool" 
"Surface Type" 



"Elevation view" 
"Define wall" 
"Material: Exterior" 


"Engineering macro" 


"Energy model" 


Looking back at the software that we 
used to use, I honestly can't imagine 
using it again. It looks powerful, but 
it's very generic to 3d modeling, and 
my team had to work really hard to 
make it work for what we do... 


Our current building model- 
ing tool is completely built 
around the way we work. 
Just reading the labels and 
looking at the organization, 
it's all there... 


114 


Beyond expected marketing messaging, how might the 
form, appearance, and behaviors of your team’s computing 
tool rapidly communicate relevance for targeted knowledge 
workers’ own goals and practices? What domain signs and 
emotive cues might workers feel a compelling affinity for while 
interacting with your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What meaningful consistencies in work practices across targeted organizations 
might your team translate into readily recognizable domain cues? 

What clear commonalities in nomenclature and information representation could 
become visible references within your product? 

Do your application concepts fit into — or somehow relate to — existing product 
genres that targeted individuals will likely know about? How might your team's 
design strategies play up these affinities while retaining meaningful brand 
differentiation? 

What domain specific interaction patterns could trigger targeted knowledge workers 
to view your product as a potential addition to their technology environments? 

How might the interactive entry points for primary pathways within your sketched 
computing tool provide a strong sense of domain relevancy? 

How might design references to familiar and iconic artifacts improve potential users' 
"gut" judgments of your product's utility and applicability? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


K4. Verification of Operation 


Knowledge workers have specific understandings, within their 
organizations and communities of practice, of what it means to 
successfully accomplish their work. In order to support workers’ 
ability to test whether their computing tools are operating as 
expected, product teams can envision functionality concepts 
around key verification scenarios. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader returns to work to find that a new version of his group's trad- 
ing application has been installed. To test the installation, he makes some random 
trades between fake organizations, knowing that he can easily cancel these test 
deals once he is confident that the updated tool is working properly with the firm's 
many interconnected systems (see illustration). 

A scientist needs to make sure that a new data collection application provides the 
same experimental results as her lab's previous tool. To ensure that the results are 
comparable, she calibrates the new product and uses it to run test procedures on 
a set of clinical samples that have already been run using the previous tool. 

An architect completes a brief tutorial in her building modeling application, during 
which the tool runs checks to measure the performance of her current computing 
infrastructure. 

Knowledge workers' early experiences of new technologies often involve critical minded 
testing. As part of adopting a new computing product, individuals and their organiza- 
tions may need to see that a tool is functioning consistently and in line with its market- 
ing claims. The more important the role of an application in work activities (A), the 
more emphasis may be placed on ensuring that it is operating as desired before putting 
it into use (B5, C7, CIO, G4). Even after a new tool has been successfully tested within a 
workplace, individual workers may go so far as to run their own verification processes 
to ensure that their own high standards are being met (E5) and to gain a better under- 
standing of how a product works (K2, K6). 

What these verification processes could entail is heavily dependent on the roles that 
product teams are envisioning for their application concepts. To support potential 
testing scenarios in targeted work practices, teams can sketch guiding functionality 
concepts that could provide users with clear, instrumental outputs (F6). Definers and 
designers may actually mandate and automatically initiate some standard verifications 
within their products, such as testing certain features in the context of an organization's 
IT infrastructure (K10). 

When product teams do not actively consider how individual workers and organizations 
will need or want to verify an application's successful operation, resulting comput- 
ing tools may be difficult to adopt with the level of confidence that is often needed to 
support real world use (D2, D3). If workers' unguided, ad hoc verification processes 
produce mixed results, negative halo effects may lead people to abandon key functional 
areas or the entirety of a product or larger brand. 

See also: Cl, C9, Fll, Gl, G3, H, I, J, K, M 


Looks like we have a 
new version of our 
trading tool... 

So, I want to double 
check to make sure 
that my own trading 
rules are still working 
like they should be... 


Financial 

Trader 


So I'm filling out a trade 
ticket using some test 
settings that will keep it 
from becoming a real, on 
the books, deal... 


Looks like the new version 
of the tool is defaulting my 
data according to the rules 
that I've set up previously, 
which is good... 


And now that I've seen 
these test trades go 
through and appear in this 
list of completed deals, 

I can delete them from the 
books and get started on 
making real money... 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


115 




— K- 

* 

IZZI 


T 



J 



What mandatory or discretionary verification scenarios could be 
valuable for your team’s application concepts? What aspects 
of your computing tool might targeted knowledge workers need 
or want to test in their local environments? What functionalities 
might you envision to directly enable certain well characterized 
checks? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Who is responsible for "officially" testing the functionality of new or updated 
applications within the organizations that your team is targeting? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other domains could 
valuably inform your team's envisioning of product verification experiences? 

Given the scope of knowledge work activities that your team is targeting, what 
types of operational checks might customer organizations require of your computing 
tool? 

After an organization has tested your application, what verifications might targeted 
knowledge workers want to repeat themselves in order to confidently incorporate 
your new or updated product into their own work practices? 

What operational verifications could be important to individual workers but may not 
seem as important to their organizations? 

What tests might be beneficially rerun as your application is used through advancing 
versions of an organization's IT infrastructure over time? 

How might your team envision the interactive procedures of infrequently accessed 
testing functionalities in a way that could allow users to easily and accurately run 
them without additional instruction? 

What role could automation play in the flow of testing actions? 

What streamlined instrumental displays might your team sketch with the goal of 
decisively presenting certain verification outcomes? 

What potential errors or problems could arise in certain testing processes? How 
might they be prevented or handled in your sketched functionality concepts? 

How might your ideas about application verification tie into your sketched directions 
for instructional assistance? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K5. Understanding and Reframing Alternate Interpretations 


When product teams foresee potential “misinterpretations” of 
their functionality concepts — and these possibilities cannot be 
effectively “designed out” — they can envision cues that may 
help knowledge workers to reframe their own interpretations 
to be more closely aligned with their products’ intended 
conceptual models. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist is used to thinking about certain areas of a scatter plot graph as repre- 
senting outlier data within a set of clinical results. After she changes the chemistry 
that her lab uses to process samples, her analysis application provides some addi- 
tional cues and instruction about how to interpret the new data (see illustration). 

An architect expects that all communications within her studio's building modeling 
application will be saved as part of the building model file. She is surprised to read 
that one type of communication is not saved, though the application's stated reason 
makes sense to her. 

A financial trader has used the same set of trading shortcut codes for years, but his 
group has recently decided to switch to a more efficient and all encompassing set. 
Now, when he accidentally enters an outdated shortcut code, his trading application 
suggests alternate codes that could match his intent. 

Some technologists talk of knowledge workers' "legacy" characteristics with dismay, as 
if trained professionals should simply abandon their cultures of practice for new pro- 
cesses that some believe to be more efficient or contemporary. Taking a more respect- 
ful approach, definers and designers can instead think of targeted workers' "legacy" of 
existing understandings and abilities as the core of valued skills that they are attempt- 
ing to augment with their products. 

Armed with the later perspective, product teams can recognize that valuable technolo- 
gies often conform to, rather than rework, users' known practices. Teams can envision 
functionality concepts that harness knowledge workers' backgrounds, presenting them 
with useful new approaches in support of their existing working cultures (K2, K6, K7). 

Even within this emphasis on intentionally suiting the design context, new technolo- 
gies inevitably carry some novel ideas. By design, some of a product team's sketched 
concepts may necessarily operate in ways that can conflict with workers' existing 
understandings. Faced with these situations, teams can identify areas where damaging 
misinterpretations may occur and then envision ways to reframe these conflicts. These 
envisioning efforts can be particularly important when teams are seeking to deliver 
value by evolving or intentionally modifying some fundamental mental models within a 
knowledge work domain (D7, F2, Fll). 

When product teams do not actively consider potential alternate interpretations of 
their design concepts — and how potentially problematic interpretations could be 
reframed — resulting products may leave knowledge workers more susceptible to er- 
rors in decision making and action (C9, G3). Users may also find such applications to be 
difficult to learn, generally inefficient (D2, D3), and built on a flawed understanding of 
their motivations and needs (Cl). 


We are trying out 
some new chemistry 
in our lab 's process, 
and I am about to 
look a the first batch 
of experiments in our 
analysis software... 



So I'm choosing a visual- 
ization that I normally 
start with to get a sense 
for data quality... 


And apparently the tool 
sees that we have 
switched chemistry for 
collecting this data, and it 
wants to tell me how to 
interpret the same old 
visualization a little bit 
differently... 


And then, after reading 
that information and 
diving into our data, the 
software is still pointing 
out what is different than 
usual as I inspect this 
interesting data point... 



I 

n — i 


0 Analyzing New Chemistry 





i k 


J 



Where might targeted knowledge workers’ domain background 
promote interpretations of your team’s sketched computing 
tool that are different than those that you intended, potentially 
leading to errors and inefficiencies in use? What corrective 
cues and instruction might your functionality concepts include 
in order to reduce the likelihood of such conflicts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What domain knowledge, existing skills, learned interaction expectations, and other 
background will targeted individuals likely bring to their experiences with your 
team's product? 

Where might peoples' existing understandings conflict with the conceptual models 
that your team is attempting to communicate throughout your sketched application 
concepts? 

In which cases might it be better to redesign certain functionalities rather than 
attempting to reframe targeted workers' alternate interpretations of them? 

Where might the opposite be true? Where could the value of your team's sketched 
approaches to mediating work be strong enough that you may want to try to 
respectfully mitigate and reframe users' alternate interpretations? 

What larger design trends and advanced analogies to other products could influence 
your ideas about attempting to reframe certain conceptions within your computing 
tool? 

What corrective cues, instructional content, and other design communication could 
reduce the incidence of potential misinterpretations? 

How might your concepts for reframing alternate interpretations tie into other 
instructional assistance approaches in your application concepts? How might they 
relate to your approaches for error prevention and handling? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, Gl, F, K, H, 14, L4, M 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K6. Design for Frequency of Access and Skill Acquisition 


Knowledge workers become highly familiar with some parts of 
their interactive applications and remain “perpetual intermedi- 
ates” or even novices in others. Product teams can envision 
appropriate levels of interaction constraint and instruction for 
different functionality concepts, matching design responses 
to expected frequency of use. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader likes that the trading application screens that he uses throughout 
his day contain only essential content and functionality, without any instructions or 
extras. When he accesses settings dialogs and other secondary areas of the comput- 
ing tool, he often reads contextual instructions without realizing that he is using 
them (see illustration). 

An architect has learned specialized shortcuts to rapidly interact with her building 
modeling application without having to shift her focus to its menu structure. Since 
she uses certain functions very frequently, she had no qualms about learning these 
somewhat arbitrary interaction mappings. 

A scientist mostly just wants to see data visualizations on her screen, not excess 
interface controls or content, but she likes to have quick access to key definitions. 
Each of the tools that she uses does things slightly differently and she sometimes 
forgets what some of the data parameters in a given screen actually mean. 

Even when a knowledge worker "knows how" to use a computing tool, they typically do 
not remember how to use every one of its functions. Additionally, the idea of "knowing 
how" to use a given functional area can mean very different things — a single interac- 
tive application can contain some functionalities that are as complicated to learn as a 
musical instrument and other areas that are as directive and restrictive as an automat- 
ed teller machine (C3). In either case, people learn through their ongoing experiences, 
though the investment involved and character of their resulting skills can differ greatly. 

Based on characterizations of use (A, D2), product teams can envision different learn- 
ability requirements for their various functionality concepts. For frequently used 
functionalities, very little aid may be needed outside of introductory experiences (K2, 
D7). For infrequently accessed functional options, computing tools can attempt to 
scaffold workers based on their assumed goals and knowledge (Cl, K5), as well as 
targeted requirements for flexibility and error prevention (C9, G3). 

When product teams do not actively consider how different functional areas within 
their application concepts will be differentially accessed and used, resulting products 
may convey an inherent disregard for learning experiences (D3). Teams may inappro- 
priately treat all areas of a product as if they will be self explanatory (H), supported by 
separate or entirely distant instructional content (K7). Alternately, poorly envisioned 
applications can become overly directive and instructive in primary areas where 
people are likely to eventually find such scaffolding to be distracting (A9, C6, D4). 



And looking across the whole product, 

I guess that streamlined means different 
things in different places... 


DIFFERENCES IN SCREEN APPROACHES 





Rarely Accessed: 

Highly Directive + Instructive 


Frequently Accessed: 

No Persistent Instruction 


How might your team characterize predicted frequency of 
use for each of your sketched functionality concepts? How 
might these differential levels of access, along with other 
relevant learnability factors, impact the amount of direction and 
scaffolding that you incorporate into each interaction pathway? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How much learning investment might targeted individuals be willing to make in 
order to use the various functionality concepts that your team has envisioned? 

How might workers' expectations around skill acquisition vary based on the value 
that they assign to a given functional option in the context of their own work 
practices? 

How might your product's overall strategic message and brand promise affect users' 
motivations? What sources of value could be compelling enough to seem worthy of 
learning effort? 

What areas and pathways in your team's application concepts are likely to be 
accessed frequently and will probably become well known through normal use? 

What portions of your computing tool will users, by design, rarely access? 

What gap exists between what targeted workers already know and what they 
may need to know in order to have positive experiences with your sketched 
functionalities? 

How might your team use the above understandings to categorically prioritize 
tradeoffs between initial learnability and skilled use in different parts of your 
product? 

In particular, how might your team place an emphasis on envisioning appropriate 
interaction constraints and instructions for complex functional areas that workers 
will rarely see? 

Where might directive limits on interactive flexibility valuably steer users toward 
their goals and prevent some types of errors? 

Where might contextual instruction provide value in different functionality 
concepts? How might your team present this instructional content in clear and 
engaging ways? 

Where might it make sense to drive users toward an application's comprehensive 
instructional assistance offerings, rather than include such content in the context of 
"normal" interactions? 

How might your envisioned approach for supporting different types of skill 
acquisition tie into your concepts for introductory experiences? How might it relate 
to your conventions for error prevention and handling? 


See also: C, E, G, K, M 


In a screen that I use all the time, it means being extremely concise and getting 
rid of extra labelling. But in places in the tool where I don't go to very often, 
it means having some information to guide me through to a good conclusion... 


Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K7. Clear and Comprehensive Instructional Assistance 


The balancing act between initial learnability and long term 
usability often results in some functionalities that are not self 
explanatory to all knowledge workers in a targeted population. 
To ensure that workers have just-in-time access to needed 
answers, product teams can envision useful, findable, and 
directive ’’help,” delivered via channels that are well suited 
to characterized learning needs. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist sees an interesting trend in her analysis application, and she wants to 
modify her current visualization to highlight data that match some complex criteria. 
After clicking through some settings screens without success, she clicks on a contex- 
tual help icon to launch the relevant section of the application's comprehensive 
help system (see illustration). 

An architect browses the support website of her building modeling application for 
"tips and tricks" on how to set up security permissions for subcontractors, before 
getting started on the necessary data entry. 

A financial trader uses the phone number listed in an error message to call his 
trading application's customer support team, whose members have access to an 
extensive help database. 

Knowledge workers often do not learn an entire interactive application in a single sit- 
ting, and supporting instruction can play a crucial role as the adoption process unfolds 
over time in organizations. Computing tools for specialized work can be extremely 
specific and intricate, making it difficult for people to digest all of the instruction that 
they need during initial training sessions or "out of box" experiences (K2). 

Product teams can envision a variety of instructional methods and presentations within 
their application concepts that are tailored to the range of ideas that they are seeking 
to communicate (C3, F, L4). In some instances, distinct assistance options, somewhat 
removed from day to day user interfaces, can be desirable. For example, contextual 
instruction (D4, FI) can progressively disclose an application's help content, an online 
information repository, the social networks of a user community (I, M3), or a direct 
communication channel to product support representatives. In other cases, where 
actions are infrequently accomplished, procedurally complex, or especially sensitive to 
error (G3), workers may value scaffolding instruction that is more present and integrat- 
ed into user interfaces (K6). 

When product teams do not actively consider the larger instructional assistance 
requirements of their application concepts, resulting products may not adequately sup- 
port workers' initial and ongoing learning needs (K5, Cl). These tools may present users 
and their organizations with costly and frustrating trial and error situations (D2, D3) 
that can negatively impact brand perceptions and work outcomes (LI). 

Conversely, poorly conceived instructional features may provide little value. Many 
contemporary tools contain vague, marginally useful instructional content of the 
baffling sort that most personal computer users are all too familiar with. 

See also: A, C, E, F10, Fll, G, J7, K, M 


I've spotted something 
interesting in this data, 
but I'm having a hard 
time getting to the 
next transformation 
that I want to make... 




Clinical 

Scientist 


So I'm clicking around my 
analysis application to see 
if I can find anything that 
looks related to what I 
want to do... 


And I'm clicking on a 
question mark icon to see 
what it says... 


Good. It looks like this 
program includes a fairly 
comprehensive manual in 
it. My problems are often 
so specific, and in many 
programs, I can't find the 
detailed info that I need... 






118 


What functionality concepts might your team envision to 
provide targeted knowledge workers with comprehensive and 
appropriate support for their learning needs and critical issues? 
What contextual, goal directed interaction pathways could your 
computing tool present in order to connect users with stored 
user assistance content, online repositories, relevant social 
networks, or specialized support staff? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What domain knowledge, existing skills, learned interaction expectations, and other 
background will targeted individuals likely bring to their experiences with your 
team's product? 

What parts of your application concepts may be inherently difficult for some 
workers to learn? Where might variabilities in work practices within targeted 
markets and organizations lead to additional learning needs for some users? 

What high level gaps exist between what workers already know and what they may 
need to know in order to have positive user experiences with your computing tool? 

What specific understanding gaps might your team identify for each of your primary 
functionality concepts? 

What portions of your application concepts will probably be accessed infrequently 
in most organizations? What learning needs could arise from these cases? 

Which of your sketched functional areas has, by design, more flexibility and less 
instructional content, with the assumption that workers will gain skills through 
ongoing use and would find directive scaffolding to be distracting? 

What comprehensive assistance approaches are most appropriate for the learning 
needs your team has characterized? 

In what cases might actual conversations be necessary to resolve knowledge 
workers' issues? What feasible support can your team envision for these 
interactions? 

How could the availability of instructional support be made contextually apparent in 
your computing tool without distracting from rehearsed, day to day interactions? 

What media formats could appropriately represent canned instructional content 
in clear and engaging ways? 

How might your envisioned approach for providing comprehensive instructional 
assistance tie into your concepts for introductory instruction? How might it relate 
to your conventions for error prevention and handling? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K8. Seamless Inter-application Interactivity 


Knowledge workers may need to interact with several 
computing tools in order to accomplish their activities, 
effectively treating their adopted suite of applications as 
one overall system. Product teams can envision functionality 
concepts that could facilitate desirable and fluid onscreen 
interactions across related products. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect selects and copies a section of a building model, then pastes it into an 
email that she will send to an acoustical consultant who is estimating some specific 
costs. When the consultant receives the file, he is able to open it in a different 3D 
modeling tool, where only the specific section of the building under discussion 
appears on his screen (see illustration). 

A financial trader copies content from a series of forms in his trading application 
and pastes it into a spreadsheet for further analysis. Since he knows his spreadsheet 
application very well, he often prefers to work this way, even when other products 
provide "spreadsheet like" functionality. 

A scientist selects several rows in a table within her analysis application and drags 
them into a presentation document. The dragged content then appears in the body 
of the document with the same table formatting. 

In many knowledge workplaces, individuals' screens are frequently alight with several 
different applications at the same time, often for overlapping purposes. An individual 
product is often only one component of an overall system of tools that workers appro- 
priate to accomplish their activities. 

Based on analyses of common product and activity interrelations in targeted work prac- 
tices (A5), product teams can envision functionality concepts that could provide 
users with lightweight and tightly coupled opportunities to effectively tie into their 
other computing tools. Conventional examples of these interoperations include "cut 
and paste" and "drag and drop" of interaction objects that users may want to move 
from one product to another (Bl, B8, E3, G2). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers may want to 
seamlessly transfer content into and out of their applications, resulting products can 
contain functionally "isolating" barriers to longterm productivity and satisfaction (D2, 
D3, M4). Workers may traverse issues that could be solved with lightweight interaction 
by redundantly entering data, capturing screens, printing information (J7), or exporting 
and importing application content (K9). Even with available workarounds, deficiencies 
in seamless interactivity may become an early and frequent complaint about adopted 
products (D4, G3, M4). 

Conversely, for reasons involving top down business or brand strategy, teams may 
intentionally decide to keep their application concepts closed to this sort of interop- 
eration, regardless of the value it could deliver to workers and their organizations. 
However, over time — and under the influence of Internet driven thinking — this line 
of "protective" reasoning appears to be becoming less prevalent in many workplace 
computing domains. 


I need to ask our 
acoustics consultant 
some costing 
questions about this 
proposed form... 



So I am going to copy this 
smaller area of the 
building model and paste 
it into an email that I'll 
send over to her... 





Remote 

Collaborator 





Which of the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate could span multiple computing tools in knowledge 
workers’ technology environments? What useful interactions 
might your team envision to allow targeted workers to 
dynamically use multiple onscreen applications as if they 
were a single seamless system? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which computing tools do targeted individuals primarily use, given the larger 
constellation of technologies that are available to them? 

What role do each of these tools play within your team's targeted tasks and larger 
activities? 

How do knowledge workers currently coordinate their various onscreen applications 
in order to accomplish their goals in different scenarios? 

Which interoperations frequently result from lightweight, spur of the moment 
choices? 

What breakdowns and errors can occur in these interoperations? Could these 
problems represent potential opportunities for your product? 

Where might your team's sketched strategic directions suggest "open" and 
networked approaches to other technologies in targeted workers' environments? 
Where might they suggest "closed" approaches? 

What market trends and technological realities might your team consider while 
envisioning possibilities for dynamic interactions between specific computing tools? 

What attitudes and expectations do targeted individuals and their organizations 
have regarding seamless interactivity as a means of bridging their various 
applications? 

Which of your sketched interaction objects and functionality concepts might provide 
value in the context of other computing tools? 

What interaction objects from other computing tools might provide value in the 
context of your team's application concepts? 

Where might existing convections for lightweight inter-application interactivity, such 
as "cut and paste" and "drag and drop," play a role in your functionality concepts? 

What novel interaction approaches might your team envision for specific bridging 
operations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


And then she can open it up in the software that she 
uses, without having to do anything special... 


See also: A, B, C3, E, G, 15, K, M 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


K9. Directed Application Interoperation 


Knowledge workers may want to accomplish their activities by 
using a series of functionalities that sequentially span more than 
one computing application. To allow for the movement of large 
volumes of data in relevant formats, product teams can envision 
functionality concepts that could facilitate cross boundary 
interoperations with distinct import and export options. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist exports a set of clinical data from her new analysis application so that she 
can import it into her old analysis tool, which includes some different visualizations. 
Depending on what she discovers in the older tool, she will likely import a subset of 
the clinical data back into her new, primary tool for further examination 

(see illustration). 

A financial trader, who wants to better understand the potential long term value 
of a large trade offer, exports the offer's data into a format that he can then easily 
uploaded into his preferred market information tool. 

An architect needs to post some plans on an extranet website for her clients to view. 
Since these clients do not have the specialized software applications that her studio 
uses, she instructs her building modeling application to export the selected plans 
as web pages. 

When dealing with complex information, large volumes of data, and entire arcs of activ- 
ity, knowledge workers frequently want or need to apply several different computing 
tools to their efforts. Individual products are often only one component of an overall 
system of tools that workers have appropriated to accomplish their activities. 

Based on analyses of common product and activity interrelations in targeted work prac- 
tices (A5), product teams can provide workers with opportunities to sequentially bridge 
applications through the export of their product's content and the import of related 
content from other tools. Desirable approaches and formats for these functionality 
concepts can be highly contingent on teams' predictions about how their product will 
be used in conjunction with other technologies. Support for more open standards may 
promote directed interoperation with a variety of computing tools, including those that 
may not yet exist during application envisioning or at the time of a product's eventual 
release (M4). 

When product teams do not actively consider how knowledge workers may want to 
directly interoperate their applications with other onscreen tools, resulting products 
may be experienced as inaccessible "islands" of functionality. These applications may 
pose critical barriers to long term productivity and satisfaction (D2, D3, G3), creating 
a need for redundant data entry (E3, E4) that can take the place of higher order, and 
potentially higher value, pursuits (D4). 

Conversely, for reasons involving top down business or brand strategy, teams may 
intentionally decide to keep their application concepts closed to this sort of interop- 
eration, regardless of the value it could deliver to workers and their organizations. 
However, over time — and under the influence of Internet driven thinking — this line 
of "protective" reasoning appears to be becoming less prevalent in many workplace 
computing domains. 


Our new analysis 
application doesn't 
have this one 
visualization that I 
often find useful... 


Clinics 

Scientis 


So I'm exporting the data I 
want to look at... 


And importing it into the 
analysis tool that our lab 
used to always use... 


And if I find something 
interesting, I can import it 
back into our current 
software, which is our 
main tool, to continue 
digging into it... 


See also: A, B, C8, E, Gl, 15, K, M 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


120 



l 



\ 



Which of the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate could bridge multiple computing tools in knowledge 
workers’ technology environments? What separate, named 
functionality concepts might your team envision to allow 
targeted workers to valuably move selected collections 
of application content across otherwise isolating product 
boundaries? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which computing tools do targeted individuals primarily use, given the larger 
constellation of technologies that are available to them? 

What role do each of these tools play within your team's targeted tasks and larger 
activities? 

How do knowledge workers currently coordinate their various onscreen applications 
to accomplish their goals in different scenarios? 

Which interoperations frequently result from actively and sequentially moving data 
between computing tools? 

What breakdowns and errors can occur in these interoperations? Could these 
problems represent potential opportunities for your product? 

Where might your team's sketched strategic directions suggest "open" and 
networked approaches to other technologies in targeted workers' environments? 
Where might they suggest "closed" approaches? 

What market trends and technological realities might your team consider while 
envisioning possibilities for the directed movement of data between certain 
computing tools? 

What attitudes and expectations do targeted individuals and organizations have 
regarding exporting and importing as a means of bridging their own assemblies of 
various tools and systems? 

Which collections of interaction objects in your application concepts might targeted 
users want to export? What data might they like to import? 

What data formats could support directed, manual exchanges of content between 
computing tools? What open standards could allow workers to move data into 
forthcoming and future applications — some of which your team may not yet know 
about or be able to predict during your own product development process? 

What flexibilities could allow workers to have desirable levels of control over the 
content that is moved into and out of your application concepts? 

What vulnerabilities and security problems might be created by allowing the import 
of "outside" data? What functionality responses could mitigate these risks? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K10. Openness to Application Integration and Extension 


In order to better support their local processes, knowledge 
workers and their organizations may want to effectively 
combine different applications or add to a computing tool’s 
functionalities. Product teams can envision technical features 
and support that could facilitate integration, or customized 
functional extension, of their application concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader no longer has to cut and paste information between his trading 
application and a secondary tool. His firm's IT staff has coded an automation that 
has removed these frequent, tedious tasks from his day, opening up more time for 
him to focus on trading and analyzing market trends (see illustration). 

An architect asked her IT department to develop a small addition for their studio's 
building modeling application. This new option allows her to view building model 
data in the context of project budgeting data. 

A scientist makes vendor selection decisions based in part on her desire to have her 
entire clinical lab's operations integrated into a unified clinical data repository. She 
looks at potential products as collections of functionality that could be integrated 
into that central system. 

Given that a single application is often only one component of an overall computing 
system (A5), technically integrating various tools together can become a desirable sce- 
nario. Organizations can also build unique functional extensions within an application's 
framework to meet local challenges inside the context of their valued tools (A8, K13). 
These needs based, technical interventions can positively alter the essential character 
of knowledge workers' experiences. For example, integrating two products together can 
offload manual interoperation efforts (E3, E4, K9) that would otherwise detract from 
workers' less tedious, higher value efforts (D3, D4). 

Product teams can facilitate these integrations and extensions by envisioning concepts 
for "opening up" certain facets of their applications' inner workings to targeted audi- 
ences. For example, teams can plan to publish documented (K7) technical interfaces 
and code for well defined points of flexibility, which could then be used in customer 
organizations, or larger communities of practice, to make desired systemic connections 
and custom improvements. 

When product teams do not actively consider how individuals and their organizations 
may want to combine and extend new tools, resulting applications may be experienced 
as inaccessible, unchanging "islands" of functionality (M4). From knowledge workers' 
perspectives, these "closed" offerings can become critical barriers to long term 
productivity and satisfaction (D2, D3, G3). 

Conversely, from a product firm's perspective, extensive integration can lead to a situ- 
ation where the brand of their offering becomes "too invisible" to individual users (Cl, 
C2, L4). In a similar vein, a product's top down strategy may not be conducive to many 
types of integration or extension scenarios, despite their potential value for targeted 
individuals and organizations. Definers and designers can attempt to balance "protec- 
tive" thinking with a desire to support open tailoring and innovative evolution of their 
product within their user community. 

See also: A, B, C8, E, 15, 16, K, M 


A certain amount of 
trading is just like 
George Jetson work, 
doing routine things 
over and over again.. 




Which of the work practices that your team is striving to 
mediate could bridge multiple computing tools in knowledge 
workers’ technology environments? Where might custom 
functional extensions address unsupported needs? What 
specific, publicized points of technical openness could allow 
target organizations to locally recombine and add on to your 
application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which computing tools do targeted individuals primarily use, given the larger 
constellation of technologies that are available to them? 

What role do each of these tools play within your team's targeted tasks and larger 
activities? 


And our group is always trying to figure out 
how to remove that work so that we can 
spend more time making deals... 


FULLY INTEGRATED APPLICATION AREAS 



For example, we had our IT group integrate some key parts of our 
two main tools, even though they are made by different companies. 

That integration saves us traders a lot of copy and paste work — 
and that's exactly the kind of work that computers should do for us, 
not the other way around, right? 


How do knowledge workers currently coordinate their various onscreen applications 
to accomplish their goals in different scenarios? 

Which interoperations between computing tools are frequent and standard 
enough — and outside the core of enjoyable, valued, thinking work — to represent 
opportunities for integration and automated interoperation? 

What integrations and custom extensions are already present in targeted workers' 
environments? Who accomplished these highly technical feats? What successes 
and problems did they have along the way? 

Where might your team's sketched strategic directions suggest "open" and 
networked approaches to other technologies in targeted workers' environments? 

At what point might your product and brand become "too invisible" due to 
integration or "too mutated" by local modifications? 

What market trends and technological realities might your team consider when 
ideating around the technical openness of your application concepts? 

What attitudes and expectations do targeted individuals and organizations have 
about how open their chosen tools should be to systemic connection and custom 
improvements? 

What features might allow your application to become a platform for innovative lo- 
cal solutions? What specific points of technical openness could provide value? 

How might your team effectively document and publish technical interfaces and 
code? What additional support and services might you provide? 

What vulnerabilities and security problems might be created by opening up your 
product to outside integration and extension? How could your envisioned design 
responses mitigate some or all of these risks? 

How might your team eventually learn from the changes that your users will 
presumably make based on technical openings in your computing tool? How could 
you promote community sharing of these local innovations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K1 1 . End User Programming 


Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could 
allow knowledge workers to program different sorts of coded 
routines within their computing tools, such as the steps 
followed by an automated process. Interactive, task specific 
methods can make programming straightforward in the 
context of workers’ own goals and technical skills. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist writes her own algorithm within her analysis application to visualize 
the data from one of her lab's clinical research studies. She starts with a standard 
algorithm provided by the tool, then exploits defined flexibilities to modify its rules 
toward the new visualization approach that she wants to try (see illustration). 

A financial trader is reviewing performance trends in his group in order to find po- 
tential areas for improvement. To locate only deals made within the last month that 
match highly specific criteria, he uses his trading application to compose and save a 
long and complex Boolean query. 

An architect selects an option to have her building modeling application record her 
actions. Once she has finished recording the interaction sequence, she can then 
easily apply the same sequence of steps to other objects within the same project. 

When confronted with exacting and effortful processes (D2, D3), knowledge workers 
may want to program specialized additions and modifications to their computing tools 
that are tailored to meet their individual, local needs (E, A7, A8). They may, however, 
find the notion of tackling even small programming efforts to be daunting. For example, 
while functionality for coding macros can allow workers to extend some contemporary 
products in diverse ways, it may require them to invest significant effort in order to 
learn unfamiliar and abstract programming languages. 

Since many people are not accustomed to writing code like a computer scientist, 
product teams can envision tailored programming methods that encapsulate known, 
inherent rules in targeted work practices and that are intrinsically appropriate for users' 
technical skill sets. For example, end user programs can be constructed from sequences 
of restrictive, easily understood "blocks" that are relevant to workers' goals and mental 
models (12, 13). Alternately, more implicit methods, such as action recording functional- 
ity can allow workers to program their tools based on recorded interactions within a 
product's "everyday" interface, which can then be "played back" on other interaction 
objects (Bl). 

When product teams do not actively consider potential needs for end user program- 
ming in their application concepts, resulting products may not be flexible enough to 
effectively support the diversity of workers' practices. In some instances, completing 
certain tasks or larger activities may simply not be feasible without customized auto- 
mation. In the absence of such functionality, product teams may receive a seemingly 
unsupportable variety of conflicting automation requests, each representing a granular 
need in local, adopted practice (M4). 


This analysis program 
has standard routines 
to transform data, but 
there's always some 
other transformation 
that I want to do... 



So I'm going to start with 
one of the rule sets that 
the product came with, 
and I will see if I can't 
change it to analyze how 
I want it to... 


— 




□ a m i 

m 1 


The existing rules are 
written in a sort of plain 
language of symbols and 
text that I can change or 
add on to... 


And now I'm using my 
new routine with this 
scatterplot, and the data 
looks very different. This 
could be very good... 


1 

Edit Analysis Rules 



\ 



What functionality concepts might your team envision to allow 
targeted knowledge workers to create their own algorithmic 
rules in order to meet local and emergent needs? What inherent 
constraints, representations, and interaction idioms might you 
draw upon to promote clearly bounded and intuitive “coding” 
experiences? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What do targeted individuals and organizations think of any end user programming 
features in their current computing tools? 

What programmed extensions have they created using these features, and who 
created them? 

Which of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate contains 
important variabilities in rule based processes? 

What types of changes might targeted knowledge workers want make to the default 
algorithms in your sketched application concepts? Are these changes predictable 
enough to become customization options — or are they diverse yet important 
enough to warrant some kind of programming flexibility? 

Might programming needs be so infrequent and unchanging as to make technical 
openness to extension by IT staff more desirable than end user programming 
options? 

What larger technology trends and advanced analogies to other products could 
valuably inform your team's envisioning of potential programming concepts? 

What interactive programming methods could allow users to flexibly "code" 
algorithms in ways that are appropriate for their skills and the targeted domain 
context? 

How might your sketched functionality ideas for end user programming allow 
individuals to carve out particular yet easily understandable paths through well 
characterized spaces of rule based possibility? 

How might people test out their own algorithms without any risks to valued data? 
How could these testing outputs reference your product's larger error prevention 
and handling conventions? 

How might your team eventually learn from the changes that your users will 
presumably make via programming options in your computing tool? How could 
your product's overall system promote community sharing of these local 
innovations? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C8, D4, II, K, M 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K12. Trusted and Credible Processes and Content 


When knowledge workers are confident that an interactive 
application follows known professional standards or was 
contributed to by credible sources, they may be more likely 
to trust the computing tool’s processes and content. Product 
teams can envision honest and direct ways to engender 
these cues in their application concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader knows that highly respected people at his firm provided feedback 
that was incorporated into the new version of his trading application. This makes 
him more confident that the tool's interactive approaches and underlying rules 
are well suited to his work practices (see illustration). 

A scientist views the algorithms supplied by her analysis application as credible 
because leading luminaries in her clinical research field, including her own mentors, 
were consulted during the creation of the product. 

An architect trusts the default reference information about construction materials 
that her building modeling application supplies because it comes from one of her 
preferred information sources. 

Knowledge workers are often valued for their ability to assess the suitability of potential 
tools for their own, and their organizations', processes. These skills can be especially 
important when the introduction of a new computing tool could have significant 
impacts on the character and outcomes of central work activities (A). 

While the high level brand promise of a product firm, product family, or individual ap- 
plication can be a persuasive part of establishing a connection with knowledge work- 
ers, the particulars of how an application functions may also be a critical ingredient 
in peoples' perceptions. All products implicitly communicate some of the underlying 
assumptions of their creators, and people may question the contributing sources and 
rationale behind specific definition, design, and implementation decisions that are par- 
ticularly relevant to their own day to day efforts. 

Product teams can promote trustworthiness and credibility by visibly communicating 
that an application follows accepted approaches and standards within a knowledge 
work domain. Products can also explicitly cite certain trusted individuals and organiza- 
tions in targeted professional fields. The involvement of these parties in application 
envisioning can generate valuable insights, and resulting computing tools can meaning- 
fully invoke their contributors' industry cache via the structural embodiment of their 
leading ideas. 

When product teams do not actively consider how they could establish the trustworthi- 
ness and credibility of their application's processes and content, knowledge workers 
may greet resulting products with a healthy dose of skepticism. A lack of credibility can 
impact both individual and collective attitudes about a brand, which may then strongly 
influence product acquisition and adoption decisions. 

See also: Cl, C8, Gl, E3, E4, E6, E5, G6, 15, K, M 


Some key people at 
our firm were involved 
in the creation of the 
latest version of our 
trading tool... 


Financial 

Trader 



Mil! 

Leading Traders 

V 



I can see some of their favorite ideas embedded into how this 
thing works, and it makes me feel good about using it... 


123 


Which domain standards and thought leaders are viewed 
as credible by targeted knowledge workers and their 
organizations? How might your team meaningfully involve 
certain trusted sources in your ideation efforts, incorporating 
their input and insights in order to enhance the usefulness, 
usability, and desirability of your offerings? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What trusted professional standards could be relevant for the work practices that 
your team is striving to mediate? 

What credible individuals and organizations could be valuable contributors and 
collaborators? 

Which of these sources might be a good match for your team's sketched strategic 
directions? 

What risks might occur from aligning your computing tool with particular industry 
standards and well known individuals? What controversies might be better 
avoided? 

How might your team incorporate pertinent insights and information from certain 
sources into your sketched application concepts? 

What source cues could be visibly incorporated into the structure, content, and 
interactive processes of your product? What types of source related messaging 
might be effective within targeted markets? 

What positive impacts could these honest and applicable citations have on your 
offerings' brand positioning? 

How might your team involve trusted contributors in your computing tool's 
eventual user community? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | K. PROMOTING INTEGRATION INTO WORK PRACTICE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


K13. Reliable and Direct Activity Infrastructure 


Interactive applications that perform reliably and give knowl- 
edge workers a sense of uninterrupted, direct action have the 
potential to become “at hand” infrastructure in work activities. 

To prevent situations where individuals and organizations limit 
their adoption of unreliable computing tools — or jettison them 
entirely — product teams can envision early requirements for 
experienced performance. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect has used her new building modeling application for several months, 
and many of her typical actions in the product now feel like second nature. Since the 
application has been dependable, she feels comfortable estimating how long it will 
take her to accomplish specific efforts using the tool (see illustration). 

A financial trader is so used to his trading application working smoothly and without 
interruption that he becomes furious during those rare occasions when the tool 
unexpectedly displays a glitch. He is known for having thrown his phone through 
his screen in a fit of rage after a small but damaging technical problem. 

A scientist likes that her new analysis application does not "freeze up" during large, 
computationally intensive analysis processes like other, similarly focused products 
that she has used in the past. 

Stable and useful tools can become relied upon infrastructure in knowledge work. 

After an onscreen application has fulfilled its initial promises and users have begun to 
develop their own meaning and skills within its framework, sequences of call and 
response interaction can become highly rehearsed, routine, and even seemingly auto- 
matic (D7). Ideally, after workers have adopted an application into their practices, they 
can simply turn to the "at hand" product to accomplish their goals in a familiar and 
direct manner (D4, Gl). 

Product teams can envision high standards for reliability. They can also strive to culti- 
vate a sense of on demand availability and tightly coupled action and reaction within 
their technologies. At a minimum, teams can identify critical performance areas within 
their application concepts and set appropriate goals for them. Going further, they can 
set performance goals for each of the central functionality concepts that they have 
sketched, benchmarking a desirable sense of flow for their tool's core pathways. 

When product teams do not actively consider how their applications could become 
reliable and direct fixtures in knowledge workers' practices, resulting products may 
promote frustrating user experiences, even after extended usage. Applications that do 
not behave dependably may not engender trusted, first choice status, given the avail- 
ability of other brands or alternate avenues of action (K12, E6). When confronted with 
inconsistent system behaviors, people may spend additional effort performing "defen- 
sive" procedures, such as versioning work (D2, D3, HI). Our human tendency toward 
sense making around unusual occurrences may cause users to "incorrectly" redefine 
their conceptual models of how a tool functions (Cl). In the worst cases, these alter- 
nate conceptions can become "ghost stories" of what to avoid and why it is dangerous, 
potentially leading to rolling failures in adoption. 


Even after only two 
weeks, I cannot 
imagine doing my 
daily work without 
this building 
modeling tool... 



When I first opened it on 
my screen I thought, 

"Wow, there is a lot to 

learn here," but every- THEN ( 

thing I tried seemed to First experience with 

work really well... building modeling 

application 


After two days of 

And then over time, while continuous use 

I was realizing how to use 

more and more of the 

tool, the important parts 

that I had already learned 

somehow felt very 

dependable... 


Today, a lot of this inter- 
face feels like second 
nature. And since it works 
so consistently, I know how 
long it will take me to do 

different things... After two weeks of 

continuous use 


NOW 


How might the experienced reliability of your team’s computing 
tool instill a sense of confidence in targeted individuals and 
organizations that could lead them to adopt its options into the 
structure of their work? How might your functionality concepts 
provide a sense of direct, low latency action on the objects 
of workers’ goals? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What requirements do targeted individuals and organizations have for the stability 
of their computing environments? How far do they currently go to prevent 
reliability issues in their IT infrastructures? 

How well do their current onscreen applications live up to these standards? 

What can be learned from understanding reliability problems in similar products? 
What has prevented other computing tools from being successful in markets similar 
to the niches that your team is targeting? 

What advanced analogies to high quality products might your team draw upon 
when thinking about the reliability of your offerings? How might these "gold 
standard" stories influence your ideas about baseline performance for your 
computing tool? 

Which primary functional areas in your sketched application concepts are critical 
to envision as high performance interactions? How might these areas promote 
compelling experiences of direct availability and tightly coupled action? 

Which of your sketched functionality concepts might not have such high 
performance requirements, based on frequency of use or other factors? 

What risks might your product face if it does not eventually meet your team's 
envisioned levels of performance in implemented reality? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, C, Dl, G, H, K, M 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


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L. Pursuing Aesthetic Refinement 


Valued computing tools can desirably 
communicate with knowledge workers on an 
emotional level, delighting users and creating 
a sensory environment that is conducive to 
focused thinking. 

Designing such compelling aesthetics requires 
the critical examination of a product’s formal 
qualities, behaviors, and larger positioning. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can map and explore potential aesthetic 
meanings and refined aesthetic directions. 

By taking time to locate and generate relevant 
emotive qualities for their onscreen tools, 
teams can uncover opportunities for more 
appealing, recognizable, comprehensible, 
and brand differentiated experiences. 


Generally speaking, product aesthetics have traditionally been an afterthought in the 
development of computing tools for the workplace. This positioning often stems from 
the fragmented specializations within product teams, a demonstration of the implicit 
priorities of project groups staffed with a proportionately high number of technically 
oriented engineers. Perhaps more importantly, the case for emphasizing aesthetics can 
be difficult to make in many highly specialized and niche markets, where the bar for 
product design is often set very low. 

At the time of writing, explorations of aesthetic meaning in complex and technical 
interactive products — beyond surface level branding — have received relatively little 
attention. Although aesthetic decisions contribute to brand, not all aesthetic ideas need 
to be driven exclusively from top down ideas about literal brand attributes. Application 
concepts can meaningfully reference aesthetic ideas from targeted knowledge work 
domains in order to invoke workers' existing understandings and better situate products 
within work contexts. 

Going a step further, product teams can envision the aesthetics of their application con- 
cepts with pleasure, engagement, and workers' sense of accomplishment as principle 
motivations. While these goals may not weigh as heavily as they would, for example, 
in an entertainment technology, there is nothing inherent to knowledge work products 
that requires them to be so far behind consumer products in meaningful and desirable 
aesthetic refinement. Teams can strategically reconsider established aesthetic priorities 
within their targeted markets, especially in mature product genres where new sources 
of value and differentiation are at a premium. 

This category contains 5 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

LI. High quality and appealing work products 
L2. Contemporary application aesthetics 
L3. Iconic design resemblances within applications 
L4. Appropriate use of imagery and direct branding 
L5. Iconoclastic product design 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore overriding aesthetic approaches for their 
application concepts, which can subsequently be used to inform aesthetic decisions 
throughout detailed design and implementation. Early ideation focused on those over- 
riding choices, rather than post hoc efforts during the mid or final stages of a product's 
development, can help teams uncover innovative opportunities and promote a unifying 
clarity in application design. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Defining interaction 
objects" (B), "Establishing an application framework" (C), and "Enhancing information 
representations" (F) categories. 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


LI . High Quality and Appealing Work Products 


Knowledge work typically results in artifactual outputs that 
are communicated to others, which recipients may then use to 
understand work progress and evaluate its outcomes. Product 
teams can envision functionality concepts that could make it 
easier for users to generate desirable work products with 
refined aesthetics. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader likes that when he sends a specific offer or completed trade form 
as an email attachment, his trading application automatically creates the document 
in the professional "look" of his company (see illustration). 

An architect likes that she can tailor the visual conventions that her new building 
modeling application uses when it automatically creates design drawings, specifi- 
cations, and other documentation. This flexibility allows her to maintain a strong 
continuity with how her studio has traditionally presented their work to long 
standing clients and other audiences. 

A scientist is surprised by the quality of the graphs that she can export from her 
analysis application. Previously, to get high quality visuals that appropriately repre- 
sent her lab's work, she had imported different subsets of clinical data into separate, 
specialized graphing tools. 

In some knowledge work domains, work products may be the culmination of countless 
hours of effort. In other domains, they may be created relatively rapidly and repeat- 
edly, in highly standardized formats. In either case, the stakeholders of an activity may 
only see workers' artifactual results (G7, J). Since many individual efforts and stages 
in knowledge work (A) can become largely invisible once they are completed, workers 
often place a high priority on the content, format, and appearance of their outputs. 

In order to envision functionality concepts that could reduce the effort needed to cre- 
ate valued work outputs (E3, E4), product teams must understand related professional 
practices, standards (A4, F2, J6, K3), and flexibility requirements (A9). Appropriate aes- 
thetic directions can emerge from meaningfully referencing information artifacts that 
targeted workers currently use while at the same time enhancing their graphic design 
clarity (F, L3). 

When product teams do not actively consider support for creating high quality and 
appealing work products in their application concepts, they may overlook opportuni- 
ties to provide value at the iterative and concluding seams of workers' activities (Gl). 
Although users may prize a resulting tool's functional offerings for getting their work 
done, they may then need to expend considerable additional effort to create out- 
puts that they consider to be desirable (D2, D3). Since many knowledge workers do 
not necessarily have nuanced design skills, their own creations may not effectively 
communicate their important content. 

Conversely, not every application needs to include extra functionality for creating 
appealing work products. When constraints vary widely (A6, A7, A8, Kl), documenta- 
tion efforts can be offloaded through seamless interactivity (K8), interoperability (K9), 
or integration (K10) with workers' related computing tools. 



If you open any message 
that I've sent and view it 
as the receiver will see it... 


You'll see that it has the 
high quality look that 
people expect from us... 


That's our logo, as if it was 
written on letterhead... 




What types of artifacts are created in the knowledge work 
practices that your team is striving to mediate? How might your 
computing tool offload some of the effort of generating certain 
outputs while at the same time enhancing the effectiveness and 
appeal of their design? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Which work products do targeted individuals currently put the most emphasis on? 
The least emphasis? 

What roles do specific artifactual outputs, whether physical or digital, play in 
targeted work practices? 

What audiences are different work products intended for? 

Is there a separation between informal, working versions and formal, presentation 
versions of these artifacts? How do professional practices and standards commonly 
vary for different levels of formality? 

How are different types of outputs currently delivered? 

What do targeted knowledge workers think about their current processes for 
creating and communicating their own outputs? What parts of these processes 
require tedious effort or can frequently lead to breakdowns? Could these problems 
represent potential opportunities for your product? 

What do recipients of work products think about current artifacts? 

What work products might become the natural "take aways" of your team's 
application concepts? What new types of outputs could provide value as part of 
your strategic approach to mediating work? 

What functionality concepts might your team envision to automate standard 
operations in the process of creating certain work products? 

What media formats could be appropriate for each type of work output that your 
team is envisioning? What technology implications might these choices have, in the 
context of current trends and existing systems? 

Which of your sketched interaction objects could certain outputs be based upon? 
How might work products retain recognizable representational features from these 
sources? 

How might your team valuably enhance the graphic design clarity of important work 
products, without any extra work on the part of their creators? 

What flexibilities might targeted individuals and organizations want or need in order 
to make the automatic generation of work products useful and relevant in their 
own, local cultures of practice? 

What contextual pathways to communication options could conclude the process 
of creating work outputs in your sketched application concepts? 


See also: B, C5, C8, E, K12, L, M 


Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


L2. Contemporary Application Aesthetics 


The stylistic aspects of conventional onscreen interaction 
and visual design have changed overtime and will continue 
to do so. Product teams can promote learnability, as well as 
attributions of product quality and utility, by envisioning usages 
of contemporary user interface aesthetics in their application 
concepts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect recognizes many of the user interface conventions of current architec- 
tural software in her new building modeling application. Although the new tool is 
substantially different, it has elements that somehow look similar to the latest 
versions of other tools she has used, and she feels that these stylistic cues help 
her to "know where to go" (see illustration). 

A financial trader recalls how his firm's trading application has gone through several 
different user interfaces over the years, with each iteration reflecting visual "best 
practices" of the times. He is somewhat of a gadget connoisseur, and he likes using 
tools that feel up to date. 

A scientist is used to working with applications that do not look very current, even 
when they are newly released. Her new analysis application is an exception, and she 
is surprised by how much she enjoys its emphasis on modern "look and feel." 

Contemporary design standards for computing tools are, at least in some part, a moving 
target. While certain foundational interactivity conventions of graphical user interfaces 
appear to be here to stay, a variety of stylistic variations on those conventions are 
continually emerging in new products, both within interactive computing at large and 
within a breadth specialized domains (C2, C3, D7, F2). Applications are also increasingly 
subject to purely graphic trends, and users' judgments of a product's visual design cur- 
rency may drift to reflect contemporary styles (L). 

While enduring tools for work should probably not become purely fashion artifacts, 
not all interface standards remain contemporary, and dated conventions can disrupt a 
product's design vocabulary. By explicitly mapping current and emerging application 
design trends, product teams can select contemporary approaches and standards that 
suit the activities that they are striving to mediate and generally match targeted 
workers' preferences (A). 

When product teams do not actively consider how they might reuse contemporary 
user interface standards, opportunities to appropriate established interaction styling 
and visual languages (F10) in a consistent manner can be lost. Workers may perceive 
resulting tools as being less relevant or industry leading (K12), which — depending on 
a product's competitive environment and its other sources of proposed value — may 
lead to negative overall halo effects. 

Conversely, envisioning interfaces from a narrow perspective of current, "permissible" 
standards can exclude more learnable (K2, K6) and otherwise optimal (D2, D3, D4) 
interface conventions. It may also detract from lines of design thinking that can result 
in more compelling, iconoclastic designs (L5). 


In our building model- 
ing application, I see 
visual similarities with 
the best architectural 
tools. It's like I can 
somehow read the 
appearance of the 
product based on 
what I already know... 



Architect 


RECOGNIZED SIMILARITIES 



What current and emerging trends in user interface aesthetics 
could be relevant for your team’s targeted markets and the work 
practices that you are striving to mediate? How might your 
team distill selected contemporary interaction and visual design 
directions into stylistic conventions that could be applied across 
your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What do targeted individuals think about the aesthetics of the onscreen tools that 
they currently use? 

What contemporary design standards are they familiar with in the context of their 
day to day work? In their use of personal technology, outside of their working lives? 

What larger stylistic trends in application design might your team map and make 
predictions around? 

What types of emotional connections between user and brand are central to your 
design strategy and application concepts? 

Which contemporary aesthetic approaches in interaction and visual design could 
promote these types of connections and attributions? 

Which contemporary approaches might targeted knowledge workers perceive as 
being appropriate and appealing for their own day to day visual environments? 

How might they identify with certain aesthetic directions in the context of their 
working lives? 

Which approaches might be too unproven, inefficient, or edgy for your application 
concepts, given that your team is striving to create a highly functional tool for 
thinking work? 

How might certain interactions with relatively "known" onscreen aesthetics 
promote emotional responses that are conducive to attentive, focused thinking? 

How might your team's choices about contemporary interaction and visual design 
aesthetics play out across your sketched application frameworks, information 
representations, and functionality concepts? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, A4, C8, F, J6, Kl, M 


CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURAL SOFTWARE 


OTHER ONSCREEN PRODUCTS 








100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


L3. Iconic Design Resemblances within Applications 


Knowledge work domains have visual cultures of iconic designs 
and related products that have evolved over time. Product 
teams can leverage those familiar cultural understandings to 
give their onscreen elements intangible, or outright meaningful, 
family resemblances with known artifacts. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist feels that the look of her new analysis application "fits into" her clinical 
research work. It has a white, color coded, clearly labeled feel that reminds her of 
the simple and informative labels on her lab's reagent containers and packages 

(see illustration). 

An architect sees a visual resemblance between the elements in her building model- 
ing application and offline tools found on a drafting table. For example, the applica- 
tion's semi-transparent menus are the same milky color as the old, semi-transparent 
protractors in her desk drawer. 

A financial trader has noticed that a number of key trading applications are starting 
to look more and more like a startup firm's market information application, which 
has had an industry leading influence on design. The style somehow looks very 
"finance" to him, in a good way. 

Knowledge work professions can have rich visual histories of iconic artifacts that have 
become emotionally symbolic of their work culture (Al, Kl, F, J6). Given that workers 
often interpret new tools from the vantage points of known artifacts and existing ap- 
proaches (Cl), targeted references to earlier visual forms can summon useful, pleasing, 
and comfortable associations. 

Product teams can intentionally situate their interactive applications within targeted 
cultural contexts by envisioning diverse design approaches that directly display, 
or indirectly evoke, affinities with established domain artifacts. 

Although teams may find it difficult to incorporate iconic resemblances at the level of 
an entire application (C2), clearer opportunities may present themselves at the level of 
individual functions (C3) or interaction objects (Bl). These references can be envisioned 
within an application's top down brand approach to ensure that individual cues are part 
of a larger, cohesive, aesthetic (L). 

When product teams do not actively consider how iconic design resemblances could be 
incorporated within their application concepts, opportunities to make intentional use 
of workers' existing artifactual literacies can be lost. Without these cues, resulting ap- 
plications may feel more generic to their targeted audiences. Individual users may find 
it more difficult to apply their specific cultural understandings to such products (D2, K2, 
K6), making it more difficult for them to recognize that these tools are intended 
for their own work practices (K3). 

Conversely, some iconic references do not translate well into a contemporary interac- 
tive application (A3, F2). Workers may associate certain artifactual cues, such as domi- 
nant and literal metaphors, with ways of working that are no longer relevant to them or 
generally not conducive to being enacted on a computer screen. 


The design of this 
analysis application 
just fits into our lab. 

I don't think it would 
look right if it 
appeared outside 
of a lab or a hospital 
or a pharmacy... 




Clinical 

Scientist 



The simple icons are easy to 
learn and very similar to the 
types of visual information that 
I see when I look away from my 
screen to the shelves of our lab. 


And if you look at this history 
area of this screen, you can see 
that each of these little event 
boxes looks something like the 
label on a reagent vial... 


128 


What iconic artifacts are part of the visual and material culture 
of targeted knowledge workers’ day to day professional 
environments? How might your sketched functionality concepts 
and interaction objects subtly or directly reference these 
artifacts in ways that are both compelling and evocative? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What iconic designs and products do targeted individuals find especially interesting 
and meaningful? Which workplace artifacts do they not feel an affinity for? 

What historical designs in targeted cultures of practice are still iconic, even if they 
are not currently used? 

What do workers attribute to those iconic artifacts that they value? What have 
these objects come to mean? What emotional connections do they hold? 

Which features of certain iconic artifacts stand out to knowledge workers? 

How might your team meaningfully incorporate chosen aspects of iconic designs 
into your application concepts? 

Are there any opportunities to draw sweeping parallels between your envisioned 
product and an existing, iconic product? What impact might those iconic parallels 
have on your application's strategic direction? 

Which references to iconic artifacts could be appropriate for your product's 
emerging brand? What impact might these references have on brand attributions? 

What smaller resemblances to iconic designs could be valuable in your sketched 
functional areas? 

How might iconic references lead to inappropriate interpretations of your product's 
role and functioning? Where might more generic design approaches be appropriate 
for what your team is attempting to accomplish? 

How might certain iconic cues relate to larger user interface conventions within your 
sketched application concepts? Which references could potentially provide value as 
part of your team's reusable interface patterns? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, B3, K5, M 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


L4. Appropriate Use of Imagery and Direct Branding 


Thoughtfully applied branding and non-interactive imagery 
are often noticeably absent in computing tools for knowledge 
work. Product teams can envision how aesthetic treatments and 
added graphic elements could help build emotional connections 
with users, promoting brand recognition and appeal while at 
the same time improving individuals’ understandings of product 
functionality. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect enjoys the richly animated imagery that covers the log in screen of 
her building modeling application. Once she has logged into the tool, however, 
its interface becomes a quiet, cool, unobtrusive frame that does not distract from 
her focused attention on the building model that she is currently working on 

(see illustration). 

A scientist likes that some dialogs in her analysis application use complementary 
illustrations to explain certain ideas, instead of just presenting text. Even after she 
has learned the illustrated information, she still finds the colorful images to be 
appealing, and they sometimes act as landmarks that help her find her way. 

A financial trader finds the branded color scheme of his current trading application 
more appealing than the black and green mainframe screens that he used to use. 
There's something about the new tool's animations and useful, attention grabbing 
cues that really set it apart from other trading products. It is all very simple, and it 
does not get in his way. 

Many contemporary products for knowledge work are aesthetically bland, unrefined, 
and undifferentiated from one another. While product teams frequently prioritize 
certain types of iconography and other conventionally "necessary" graphical elements 
in their applications, other visual treatments and non-interactive imagery may not carry 
the same weight in teams' design priorities. 

Specialized computing tools can have unique, recognizable visual characters. Using the 
term branding to mean more than just a logo or swatch of color, product teams can ex- 
tensively brand knowledge work applications while enhancing product usefulness and 
usability (D4, F). When branding is addressed during early ideation of potential applica- 
tion concepts, teams can envision approaches that broadly embody brand in a holistic 
sense (A, K12). Definers and designers can also identify opportunities in their function- 
ality concepts for informative, stimulating, and memorable imagery (F10). This content 
can appear as a part of introductory instruction (K2), infrequently accessed processes 
(K5, K6), tasks that involve waiting (D3), and other classes of potential user experience. 

When product teams do not actively consider how they might incorporate supple- 
mentary imagery and direct branding into their application concepts, opportunities to 
drive useful, unified, and meaningful visual approaches can be lost. While some visual 
treatments and graphic elements can be added on an item by item basis during product 
implementation, an early, foundational emphasis may be necessary for teams to arrive 
at consistent, strategically differentiated, and industry leading design approaches (L5). 

See also: Kl, L, M 



The log in screen comes 
up fast, and I enter my 
information... 


And while it's loading, 
there this great animation 
going on in the back- 
ground that sort of gives 
you an indirect feel for 
what the product does. 

It feels like all of this slick, 
integrated building data... 


But it's just a quick thing, 
and it's important that it 
fades as soon as it can to 
leave me with the details 
of my tool and my work... 




How might your team’s application concepts be extensively 
and recognizably branded, while enhancing — not distracting 
from — onscreen clarity and utility? Where in your sketched 
functionality ideas could there be opportunities for useful, 
stimulating, and memorable supplementary graphic elements? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How could your team's interpretation of branding expand to mean more than just 
a logo or swatch of color? 

What types of emotional connections between user and brand are central to your 
design strategy and application concepts? 

What larger design trends could influence your team's approach to of branding and 
complementary graphic elements in your sketched product? 

How might your computing tool have a unique and recognizable visual character, 
even if that character may emerge from the sum of relatively small design details? 

How could selected brand characteristics of your firm, product family, and 
envisioned offering be usefully and valuably applied to your sketched application 
frameworks and functional areas? 

How might targeted individuals identify with and respond to certain branding 
approaches, given that your team is striving to create a highly functional tool for 
thinking work? 

What parts of your application's scope have attentional and onscreen constraints 
that might not be conducive to incorporating any sort of "additional" visual content? 

What key ideas, processes, and options within your functionality concepts might be 
clearly communicated to targeted workers through graphic imagery? 

Where might instructive content in your sketched screens benefit from illustrations? 

Could the user experiences of starting your product, waiting during specific 
processes, or exiting the computing tool present opportunities for engaging visual 
communication? 

What styles of illustration could be domain and brand appropriate? How might 
these styles reference or play against the aesthetic conventions of contemporary 
computing? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 




100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | L. PURSUING AESTHETIC REFINEMENT 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


L5. Iconoclastic Product Design 


Many knowledge work applications do not stray very far from 
the aesthetic mold of “standard” user interface design. Products 
teams can envision how their application concepts could fully 
preserve their proposed utility while at the same time gaining 
uniquely stimulating and emotionally compelling differentiation 
through novel interaction and visual design approaches. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader is genuinely surprised by the experience of using his new trad- 
ing application. He thinks that it is something disruptively different. Its informative, 
animated transitions and sleek, streamlined, almost "hi fi" appearance makes the 
trading tool feel something like an advanced, luxurious electronic product — a 
device that he identifies with and actually wants to use, not just because he "has to" 
(see illustration). 

An architect finds that her new building modeling application looks more like a well 
designed, humanized medical product than a typical architectural product. While 
she considers the functional aspects of the computing tool to be more important 
than its aesthetics, she is surprised by how much she appreciates its refined design 
qualities day after day. 

A scientist finds that her new analysis application transitions through and displays 
data views in a revolutionary, highly spatial way. She is now less likely to get "lost" 
while navigating her lab's large clinical data sets. 

While the value of iconoclastic product design has been recognized in a range of busi- 
ness sectors, many firms creating computing tools for knowledge work have — at the 
time of writing — not put a priority on this type of innovation. Some product teams 
may implicitly believe that disruptively novel design is somehow counter to the goal 
of creating functional tools for skilled professionals. It is not. 

Product teams can sketch and evaluate divergent, iconoclastic approaches for their 
application concepts. It is important to note, however, that not all aspects of user 
interface design are ripe for highly novel concepting. Changing some fundamental user 
experience conventions in the name of revolutionary design can lead to unnecessary 
confusion and frustration (Gl, K5). These fundamentals, which computer users have 
learned through years of experience, are often rooted in the pioneering design patterns 
of interactive computing (C3, C9, G2, G3). Outside of these fundamentals, however, 
product teams can uncover large territories of interactive and visual design convention 
that are more open to exploration and breakthrough design concepting (Cl, C2, F3). 

When product teams do not actively consider whether their application concepts could 
benefit from iconoclastic approaches, opportunities for compelling brand differentia- 
tion (L4), beneficial halo effects, and stimulating user experiences can be lost. 

Conversely, not all knowledge workers may want to use applications with substantially 
different design emphases, especially if they perceive novel approaches as potential 
obstructions to their work outcomes (K2, K3, K6). 

See also: A, C, L, F, Kl, M 


I love the way this 
new trading tool 
looks and moves. 

It's very different 
from software as 
usual. It feels much 
more designed 
somehow... 



I think that the designers 
must have thought about 
the kind of gadgets that I 
like to own and play with 
and walk around with... 




I see a lot of small things in this tool that remind me of 
the types tech that I like to personally buy and use... 

It has this quality look that I really want, and I don't feel 
like I'm sacrificing anything as far as my work goes in 
order to get this better experience... 


How might your team use your insights into targeted knowledge 
work practices to sketch truly different, surprisingly engaging, 
and highly relevant user interface design breakthroughs? What 
impact could these ideas have on the larger design strategies 
of your application concepts? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your team's ideation 
around iconoclastic application proposals? 

What types of emotional connections between user and brand are central to your 
emerging ideas about design strategy? 

What might truly iconic differentiation mean for your product? Could it be worth 
the design investment given your targeted market context? 

How might your team usefully focus your desire to do something different, moving 
beyond simply contradicting the conventional to instead ideate around potentially 
important opportunities for mediating knowledge work? 

How might you use relevant big picture metaphors to think through drastically 
different design directions? 

How might you greatly expand upon small iconic references to artifacts that have 
cultural significance to your targeted audience? What lines of design thinking could 
be opened up by certain inspirational reference points? 

What advanced analogies to other, potentially unrelated related domains might 
drive new directions in your team's application concepts? 

What novel approaches could clarify specific interactions? How might your team 
freely re-envision some of your functionality concepts with the goal of promoting 
more dynamic and engaging user experiences? 

What choices about radical design departures make sense given the historical trajec- 
tory and brand of your firm, as well as the product line that you are working within? 

How might targeted workers identify with certain new aesthetic directions in the 
context of their own working lives? 

How might certain interactions with iconoclastic onscreen aesthetics promote 
emotional responses that are conducive to attentive, focused thinking? 

What risks could be involved when breaking the mold in certain ways? Which of 
your iconoclastic ideas might be too inefficient or edgy, given that you are striving 
to create a highly functional tool for thinking work? 

How might your team gain an understanding of whether targeted individuals see 
certain iconoclastic design concepts as being something new, appealing, and 
genuinely useful? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 





100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | IDEA CATEGORY 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


M. Planning Connection with Use 


Valued computing tools are born from intensive 
conversations, and those conversations may 
then continue to evolve throughout a product’s 
dispersion and adoption. 

Designing for such meaningful connection 
requires critical thinking about potential real 
world scenarios of use — both desirable and 
negative — as well as potential interventions 
that might help steer usage toward intended 
outcomes. 

During application envisioning, product teams 
can actively talk about potential downstream 
effects of their design concepts. Teams can 
also generate ideas about future connections 
with their applications’ eventual users, 
envisioning integral touch points that can allow 
them to remain systemically responsive and 
strategically relevant over time. 


Beyond input gathered from targeted individuals during product development, a launch 
date can represent the beginning of a meaningful dialog between a computing tool's 
creators and its users. As industries, cultures of practice, and technological environ- 
ments evolve, so must the interactive applications that are situated within them. Con- 
versations around adopted usage can provide a wellspring of insights for technologists 
striving to provide enduring value in complex work practices. 

Long before a computing tool's launch, product teams can envision connections with 
real world use in order to develop design strategies that could positively influence the 
socio-technical systems that will envelop their creations. For example, envisioned con- 
cepts could contain integral channels for ongoing collaboration around user needs and 
design advancements. Teams may even go so far as to conceptualize their entire offer- 
ings as services instead of products, either literally or in spirit. Workers can experience 
vendor organizations through a variety of supportive, service oriented touch points 
that are thoughtfully tied into their activity contexts. The nature of these touch points 
may depend on the domain, the character of targeted work practices, and the level of 
disruptiveness or maturity of the product category. 

Beyond connections with individual workers and organizations, product teams can also 
foster and learn from the communities of practice that will ideally grow around their 
applications. Once a product has been incorporated broadly into a knowledge work do- 
main, workers in related professions may become invested in the tool's advancement. 
From users' perspectives, applications that succeed in becoming part of the infrastruc- 
ture of a field can actually "belong," in some sense, to the people who have made the 
technology meaningful in their own practices. 

This category contains 4 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: 

Ml. Iterative conversations with knowledge workers 

M2. System champions 

M3. Application user communities 

M4. Unanticipated uses of technology 

Product teams can use these ideas to explore concepts for how their organizations and 
offerings could systemically support work practice throughout a product's evolution, 
based on mutually beneficial exchanges with users and stakeholders. Early ideation 
focused on this support, rather than post hoc efforts after a product launch, can help 
teams to integrate these relationships into the core of their application concepts. Early 
thinking about these connections can also positively shape the ongoing product devel- 
opment processes that an envisioning effort initiates. 

The central notion of this category is most closely related to the "Exploring work media- 
tion and determining scope" (A) and "Promoting integration into work practice" (K) 
categories. 



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Ml . Iterative Conversations with Knowledge Workers 


Product teams can iteratively co-envision valuable interactive 
applications with selected knowledge workers, grounding 
resulting technologies in current and emerging needs within 
targeted organizations and communities of practice. This dialog 
can commence in early, strategic design concepting and then 
continue throughout development and across product versions. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect believes that the building modeling application that her studio uses 
needs some key improvements. After voicing her opinions to the vendor firm that 
created the computing tool, she is invited to provide feedback on early design 
concepts and prototypes for new and improved functionalities (see illustration). 

A financial trader uses a phone number in his trading application to contact a prod- 
uct team directly. He wants to let them know about some changes in regulations 
that will definitely impact the utility of certain functional options in their tool. 

A scientist opens her clinical research lab to a visiting product team. This team is 
meeting a sampling of their customers in order to gain a better understanding of 
how scientists are incorporating their own, and other vendors', analysis applications 
into complex laboratory processes. 

Truly engaging, useful, and usable interactive applications may take multiple iterations 
to emerge. Unsurprisingly then, relatively frequent updates have become an assumed 
and essential part of many onscreen products' lifecycles. 

To ensure that they are heading in desired and desirable directions, product teams can 
have authentic, ongoing conversations with targeted knowledge workers during any or 
all phases of their development processes. During application envisioning, teams can 
engage in conversations with potential users to identify where computing tools could 
provide value in their practices (A). These early conversations can also allow teams to 
gather input on their sketched application concepts, input which they can selectively 
and intelligently use to shape their products' essential forms. 

With the goal of an ongoing dialog in mind, teams can envision functionality concepts 
that could make it easier for their eventual users to establish contact or simply make 
suggestions (J 1, J6). Workers may experience these channels as key touch points with a 
vendor, connectively extending outward from the tool itself into a larger, service 
oriented system. 

When product teams do not actively consider an approach for iterative conversations 
with targeted knowledge workers, they may miss key opportunities while at the same 
time investing their efforts in other, nominally useful design strategies and functionality 
offerings (A9). This disconnection may damage brand and open the door to compet- 
ing firms who make the effort to meaningfully engage in these conversations within 
targeted markets (K12). 

Conversely, when teams work literally from workers' inputs instead of thoughtfully 
extracting the underlying intents of their comments, these ongoing conversations may 
result in unfocused and uncompelling "Frankenstein" applications (C). 

See also: Dl, G7, M 


The vendor that 
created our building 
modeling application 
has been very 
interested to hear 
my thoughts on their 
new designs for 
the tool... 



I'm often on the phone 
providing feedback to 
people from their team 
about simple prototypes 
that they put together to 
express their new ideas... 



tit* 

Vendor Product Team 


Iterative research, 
concepting, design, 
and implementation 
based on ongoing 
conversation with 
carefully selected 
knowledge workers 


▼ 


And it's great to see those 
ideas come to life in new 
releases of their products, 
knowing that our firm's 
input made a difference 
in how they work... 



132 


How might your team gather and use input from targeted 
knowledge workers as part of your application envisioning 
process? What functional channels within your product 
might allow you to gather such input over time? How could 
representative workers’ insights, ideas, and feedback inform 
your decision making processes as you evolve your product? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Who should your team include in iterative conversations about your team's 
computing tool? What sampling of voices could represent key variabilities in your 
targeted markets — including so called "lead users" who often advance their own, 
local innovations? 

What larger market trends could impact your ideas about having discussions with 
representative knowledge workers? Do targeted individuals and organizations 
expect to have personal interaction with their vendors? 

How might your team get started with iterative conversations during early 
envisioning, before de facto choices appear in your application concepts? 

Could informing participants become full time advisors in your team, or part of 
a larger network of confirmed but occasional reviewers? 

What insights might these participants have into where technologies could provide 
new sources of value in their work practices? 

What ideas might they have regarding desirable changes in how onscreen tools 
could fit into their activities? 

What feedback might they provide about your sketched application and 
functionality concepts? 

What processes could your team create to extract intents and prioritize knowledge 
workers' inputs, rather than taking them literally, without any filtering? 

How might distilled inputs from participating informants impact the design strategy 
of your computing tool? 

How could thinking of your offering as a service rather than a product change your 
team's perspective on knowledge workers' strategic inputs? 

What functionality concepts might you envision to promote mutually valuable 
connections with your tool's expanding populations of end users? How might you 
gather input through these channels as you evolve your product to meet emerging 
needs over time? 

What implications could such conversations have on the brand of your offering? 

On your marketing methods and messaging? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


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WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


M2. System Champions 


Product teams can envision valuable support for individuals 
who champion the adoption and effective use of their interactive 
applications within certain communities of practice. These 
champions can be identified both within targeted customer 
organizations and within knowledge work fields at large. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A financial trader receives training about new trading application functionalities 
from a trusted vendor. He learns everything he can about changes in the current 
version so that he can effectively train his colleagues about the most relevant new 
features for their own ways of working (see illustration). 

A scientist starts a new position at a large clinical research lab. As she arrives at the 
new lab, she promotes the purchase and use of an analysis application that she 
found to be immensely valuable in her earlier efforts, ensuring that everyone under- 
stands its value and workings. 

An architect contacts a product vendor to ask how their building modeling applica- 
tion could be integrated with another computing tool that her studio is considering 
using. She is provided with a direct contact in the product's development team that 
can answer her detailed questions, and as a result of those personal conversations, 
she becomes an outspoken advocate of the modeling application within her firm 
and community. 

Knowledge workers can become system champions through job responsibilities or 
through intrinsic interests and skills that make them "go to" people for questions about 
computing tools. These champions can act as translators between product teams and 
an application's other end users, reframing a tool's own "language" in the context of 
local processes and practices (Al, A7, A8). Champions may train other workers (K2, K7) 
and represent them in vendor relationships. Perhaps more importantly, such champions 
of an onscreen application often become the informal "help desk" that keeps mediated 
activities moving smoothly and effectively. 

Product teams cannot "create" system champions, but they can promote the idea 
within their targeted markets and then watch for emerging individuals that could play 
the role. Not every customer organization will have a system champion, and some 
champions will not be associated with any particular organization. These voices can 
also arise in outside groups that contribute to larger fields and vocations, such as online 
communities (M3) and professional associations. Once teams have identified potential 
champions of their applications, product firms can supply these individuals with direct 
communication channels (J), specialized information, and targeted services to help 
them advance the adoption (K) and effective use of their computing tools. 

When product teams do not actively consider support for system champions in their ap- 
plication concepts, strategic opportunities to scaffold real world use and gain valuable 
new sources of insights may remain overlooked (Ml). More concretely, product support 
costs may be higher without well supported local champions responding to other work- 
ers' many complex yet day to day problems. 


I'm the one that learns 
about our tools and 
teaches everyone in 
our trading group 
about how to get the 
most out of new 
functions and such... 


Financial 

Trader 


Our software vendors are very supportive 
and seem to care about ongoing relationships 
with their customers like us traders do... 


CURATED FEATURES, ADAPTED FOR CONTEXT 







— □ 

— □ 

□ 

□ 


▼ 


They just had a training 
session, and now I'm 
explaining the important 
changes to everyone around 
our office who needs to be 
up to speed... 


Hit) 


How might your team eventually identify and engage with sys- 
tem champions? What functionality concepts and interaction 
pathways could reach out to these targeted knowledge 
workers? What types of support could help them to effectively 
promote your computing tool in their own local environments 
and cultures of practice? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Who might be excited about the possibilities of applying your team's eventual 
product to real world work? 

Which established roles in targeted organizations typically promote the adoption 
and use of new or updated computing tools? 

Which existing users of your firm's products could be recognized as system 
champions? 

Who is advancing the use of similar applications in your targeted markets, 
effectively "translating" them into local situations? 

What processes might your team envision to ensure that your firm identifies 
and promotes relationships with emerging system champions? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about 
connecting with and supporting these potentially influential individuals? 

What larger market trends could impact your team's ideas about connecting with 
those users who eventually champion your product? 

How might system champions, in practice, actually advance the adoption and 
effective use of your computing tool? What background and instruction might they 
be called upon to provide? What types of problems could they face? 

What functionality concepts might your team envision to provide targeted commu- 
nication channels between system champions and supporting staff within your firm? 

What additional specialized information about your product might system 
champions value? 

What targeted services could your firm provide to support identified champions? 
What functionality concepts might your team sketch to enable and direct these 
service ideas? 

How might system champions eventually represent their organizations, communi- 
ties of practice, or larger professional fields in ongoing conversations with your team 
about the evolution of your product? 

What implications could support for championing individuals have on the brand of 
your sketched computing tool? On your marketing methods and messaging? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: A, D, G7, M 


Other Traders 


100 APPLICATION ENVISIONING IDEAS | M. PLANNING CONNECTION WITH USE 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


M3. Application User Communities 


The social networks and collective focus of user communities 
can provide valuable support to knowledge workers who are 
trying to make the most of computing tools in their own orga- 
nizations and personal practices. Product teams can envision 
concepts for fostering and reaching out to these communities, 
opening up channels to discuss issues and gather feedback. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

A scientist posts a question to an online forum about her analysis application and 
receives suggestions from other users, as well as a detailed answer from the vendor 
firm that created the tool (see illustration). 

An architect attends an annual convention where the user group for her building 
modeling application is hosting a panel discussion on different methods of applying 
the tool to real world projects. Since her firm is relatively new to using the product, 
she learns a lot from hearing about how other architectural studios approach their 
projects within it. 

A financial trader regularly meets with other traders working in the same market 
specialty. In addition to building business relationships, one of the usual topics of 
discussion is how to make better use of the industry standard applications that 
most firms use. 

User communities can connect knowledge workers in a particular organization to a 
larger pool of people who are using computing tools in similar activities. Interactive 
applications with entrenched user bases can have large, active, and formalized user 
groups, whose members answer each other's questions and collectively lobby product 
firms. Alternately, domain specific communities, such as a group researching malaria 
cures, may discuss related computing applications as one part of a much larger conver- 
sation about their specialties. 

Product teams can envision concepts for fostering the creation of user communities 
and supporting groups that arise organically. Once a community is established, teams 
can make responsive contributions, providing answers and technical support (M2), 
addressing concerns in a constructive manner, and soliciting input on new design 
concepts and prototypes. 

Product firms and members of user communities can communicate through email lists 
(Jl), centralized forums (J6), longer term knowledge bases (El, G6, 17, J5), and face to 
face events. Workers may experience these channels as key touch points with a vendor, 
connectively extending outward from the tool itself into a larger, service oriented 
system. A user community's influence can extend into product strategy and develop- 
ment, brand reputation, purchasing behavior, the adoption process (K), and ongoing 
use (K12). 

When product teams do not actively consider potential support for user communities 
in their application concepts, opportunities to scaffold adoption and gain new sources 
of valuable insights (Ml) may remain overlooked. More concretely, application support 
costs may be higher without robust user communities responding to individual workers' 
many complex yet day to day problems. 


Every once and a while 
I post a detailed 
question from our lab 
to the community site 
that is linked to our 
analysis application... 



Clinical 

Scientist 




DISTANT COMMUNITY 



And eventually I get answers from all sorts of knowledgeable people... 


How could your firm be more than a “distant provider” to the 
larger communities that will eventually discuss and converge 
around your computing tool? What inputs might related 
communities contribute to your application envisioning efforts? 
How might interactive touchpoints and human support for 
certain communities eventually lead to positive impacts on 
product adoption, workers’ outcomes, brand reputation, 
and other factors? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

How active are targeted individuals in various communities that are related to 
their professional practices? 

Which existing, domain specific communities might be interested in mutually 
beneficial conversations about the formative direction of your product? 

How might you connect with certain trusted and influential communities to gather 
insights, ideas, and feedback? What technologies and events do these groups 
congregate around and communicate through? 

What larger design, technology, and market trends could impact your ideas about 
supporting user communities? Do contemporary collectives expect to have active 
conversations with related product vendors? 

What new user communities might ideally form around the use of your envisioned 
product? How might the identities and segmentations of these groups reflect 
targeted domains and market segments? 

How could your team foster the creation of one or more of these communities 
as part of actively releasing your technology? 

What functionality concepts might your team envision to strongly tie the activities 
of certain user communities to your computing tool? 

How could integral touch points, along with community action outside of your 
onscreen offerings, create opportunities for your firm to meaningfully connect 
with and support your user base? 

How might your team's approaches for supporting application user communities 
relate to your other functionality concepts for supporting cooperation, 
collaboration, and workspace awareness? 

What implications could connection with user communities have on the brand of 
your sketched application concepts? On your marketing methods and messaging? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 


See also: G3, G5, J2, M 


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WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


M4. Unanticipated Uses of Technology 


History contains many examples of unanticipated uses that 
come to life once technologies are released into the world. 
Product teams can explicitly envision the design of their 
interactive applications to steer clear of support for certain 
usage scenarios. Teams can also inform the evolution of their 
offerings by investigating the unexpected ways that knowledge 
workers think about appropriating them. 

Examples from three knowledge work domains: 

An architect uses tools in an airplane design application to create highly sculptural 
forms, which she then imports into her building modeling application to use as 
elements in an experimental building proposal (see illustration). 

A scientist searched extensively to find a data visualization tool for an ongoing, 
highly specific analysis need. Her clinical research lab now routinely uses a single 
interactive graph from an analysis tool that is normally only used by environmental 
engineers, not clinical researchers. 

A financial trader uses an instant messaging function, which was specifically 
designed as a method for rapidly booking deals with outside firms, to quickly distrib- 
ute excess work to fellow traders in his group during peak intervals of activity. 

Although highly specialized interactive applications may somehow seem immune to un- 
anticipated uses, knowledge workers often make use of computing products in unfore- 
seen ways. Individuals and organizations commonly develop innovative new methods 
for applying a tool to the work practices that it was originally designed to mediate (A7, 
A8). In other cases, workers may find further uses for products that are entirely outside 
the scope of what a product team had initially envisioned (A9). These lateral jumps 
can lead to an application's involvement in a broader range of knowledge work efforts, 
potentially even in other fields and professions. 

Since each unexpected use can present opportunities to tailor or extend an applica- 
tion's strategic and functional characteristics, product teams can recognize and envision 
support for viable cases (M3). Teams can uncover unanticipated uses in a variety of 
ways. Early on, they can conduct thought experiments to envision appropriated uses 
of their computing tools that they would like to avoid for ethical, legal, or strategic 
reasons. During product implementation, extensive prototype studies (Jl, J6) and other 
forms of discussion with users (Ml) may also reveal the emergence of unanticipated 
practices and markets. As part of planning post release discovery processes, teams may 
also seek out so called "lead users" known for generating innovative practices around 
their tools. 

When product teams do not actively consider unexpected and emergent uses of their 
technologies, opportunities to harness workers' innovations (A, F) and to grow adoption 
in unexpected markets (K) can be lost. Technologists may also inadvertently create in- 
herent opportunities for usage scenarios that are not consistent with their own intrinsic 
motivations and personal morals. 

See also: B, C, D, G, M 


We heard that this 
leading architecture 
studio was using a 
different software 
package to come up 
with some of its 
more dramatic, 
organic forms... 



And so now we're also 
using this aviation 
software tool to do certain 
shapes. It generates them 
with much more info 
about the "how" of the 
structure, not just dumb 
3D form data... 



EXPORTED INFORMATION 



We then import it into our 
main building modeling 
application, where it 
becomes part of our 
normal workflow... 


T 



What early predictions might your team make about surprising 
and novel uses of your computing tool, simply by taking time 
to consider them? What inventive usages would you like 
to prevent or discourage due to ethical, legal, or strategic 
concerns? What processes might your team follow to identify 
emergent and unexpected uses of your product in a timely way? 

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications 
for knowledge work: 

Are the professionals that your team is targeting known for deliberately using their 
tools in innovative ways, or do they seem more likely to adopt technologies as they 
were intended to be applied? 

What technologies have targeted individuals and organizations appropriated in 
novel ways in the past? What might your team learn about your audience from 
these stories? 

What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about 
unexpected scenarios of use? 

What thought experiments might your team conduct to uncover potential 
unanticipated uses of your application concepts — while your product is still just 
abstract models and sketches? 

What inventive usages might targeted knowledge workers predict? 

What important variabilities in working methods might your team have overlooked 
when rationalizing work practice for design purposes? 

What other, laterally related domains and occupations might reach out to some 
or all of the functionality in your application concepts? 

Of the potential "not as designed" uses that your team has identified, which would 
be inconsistent with your own goals and morals? Which would clearly not fit the 
envisioned design strategy or brand of your application concepts? 

How might your team "design out" certain usage scenarios that you do not want 
to promote or enable? 

What plans might you establish for gathering information on novel uses of your 
product in its eventual user base? For working with innovative "lead users" to 
translate their related ideas and creations into valuable elements of your 
computing tool? 

Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning 
questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design 
concepting could valuably inform your team's application envisioning efforts? 



CLOSING MATTER 


Glossary 


Many specialized terms have been intentionally omitted 
throughout "Working through Screens" in favor language that 
product teams can more easily share during their application 
envisioning efforts. However, given that the main goals of this 
book represent a highly specialized pursuit, the following 
glossary defines a number of specific terms that have been used 
in this volume. Please note that the following definitions are 
not general purpose; they are written specifically for the limited 
context of envisioning interactive applications for knowledge 
work. Broader definitions of the same terms could take on 
substantially different slants. 

Activity: Within a product team's rationalized models of work 
practice, an activity is a larger set of goal oriented actions 
performed by one or more workers in order to contribute to 
a larger purpose. Activities are tied to foundational motives 
of knowledge work, and they are often nameable, discussed 
elements of workers' shared cultural models. As product teams 
envision concepts for how their technology could mediate 
workers' efforts, the selection of targeted activities can be a 
key determinant of an application's design strategy, functional 
scope, and potential meanings to future users. Activities are one 
part of the "operations, tasks, and activities" hierarchical ap- 
proach to modeling work (see other definitions in this glossary), 
as coarsely borrowed from Alexei Leontiev's Activity Theory. 
Activities may also nest into other, higher order activities, 
which may in turn nest into further activities, and so on. 

Advanced Analogies: Lateral references to the innovative use 
of technologies in other, often seemingly unrelated, domains. 

An advanced analogy creates a meaningful connection to an 
outside reference point that can inspire product teams to think 
about their design problems in different ways. Sometimes this 
inspiration involves literal translation from an analogous situ- 
ation, while other times the forward looking influence is less 
direct and more evocative. 

Analysis application: In the context of this book's examples, this 
term refers to a computing tool for clinical research. Analysis 
tools designed for the scientific market represent some of the 
most advanced examples of interactive applications currently 
available to knowledge workers. These tools can take seemingly 
countless pieces of laboratory data and present them in ways 
that allow scientists to understand trends, uncover anomalies, 
and make decisions. Robust visualization functionality can allow 
researchers to sift through experimental results from a wide va- 
riety of perspectives based on emergent wayfinding approach- 
es. In clinical research areas where certain established analyses 
are often useful for understanding data, highly tailored func- 
tions can automate known, well characterized tests and present 
their results in clear and actionable information displays. See 
the "Primer on example knowledge work domains" section for 


additional background information on the clinical research 
computing examples used throughout this book. 

Application: See definition for "interactive application." 

Application concept: Sketched assemblies that integrate se- 
lected functionality concepts, along with strategic and infra- 
structural ideas about a product's design, into a named, overall 
approach to mediating a chosen scope of knowledge work activ- 
ities. Product teams eventually choose one of their envisioned 
application concepts (or a hybrid concept) to serve as the basis 
for the rest of the product development process. 

Application envisioning: An early, separate time in product 
development for teams to collaboratively consider diverse and 
appropriate concepts of what could be, rather than being pulled 
down an incremental, largely unconsidered course. During this 
interval, teams can iteratively generate application concepts in 
lightweight models and sketches rather than implemented code. 
Time spent in this "preproduction" mode can result in outcomes 
that are grounded in the vector of a compelling and broadly 
informed design strategy. At the end of application envisioning, 
teams can select the "fittest" concepts for their product's essen- 
tial direction and form from a relevant ecosystem of potential 
ideas. 

Architect: See definition for "architectural domain." See also 
the "Primer on example knowledge work domains" section for 
additional background information. 

Architectural domain: Architects and their firms, generally 
speaking, seek to profitably create well designed drawings for 
buildings that address complex criteria. Some aspects of these 
complex work practices are used in examples throughout this 
book. See the "Primer on example knowledge work domains" 
section for additional background information. 

Automaticity: In the context of interactive applications for 
knowledge work, the point of learning and accommodation at 
which workers can execute certain operations and larger tasks 
with reduced effort. When novel situations arise in otherwise 
predictable interactions, workers' automatic behaviors can lead 
to special error cases in product use. Application designs that 
promote automaticity in frequent usage scenarios can be very 
different from those design responses that emphasize initial 
learnability and usability. 

Building modeling application: This term encompasses an 
emerging class of computing applications, more commonly 
called Building Information Modeling (BIM), that is beginning to 
drive radical changes in architectural practice. In BIM, the entire 
design of a building is stored as a collaborative virtual model 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


136 


that can be modified and referenced by different contributors to 
a project, purportedly improving communication and reduc- 
ing representational misunderstandings. See the "Primer on 
example knowledge work domains" section for additional back- 
ground information on the architectural computing examples 
used throughout this book. 

Clinical research domain: Clinical research scientists, generally 
speaking, want to make applied discoveries related to human 
health. These scientists adopt diverse methods and technolo- 
gies to attack their research problems, depending on the nature 
of the topic under study and researchers' own areas of exper- 
tise. Some aspects of these complex work practices are used in 
examples throughout this book. See the "Primer on example 
knowledge work domains" section for additional background 
information. 

Community of practice: A community of knowledge work- 
ers mutually engaged in collaborative action and learning in 
a shared domain over time. As described in the writings of 
Etienne Wenger, these communities build upon each others' 
efforts and ideas, often through direct participation in social 
exchanges. In the context of knowledge work, communities 
of practice can represent the staff of a particular group in an 
organization or a larger collective within a domain, such as a 
long standing professional organization. 

Conceptual model: In the context of envisioning applications 
for knowledge work, they are the mental models that contain 
people's particular understandings of which work practices an 
interactive application is designed to support, how it essentially 
"works," and how it might fit into their own activities. As mental 
constructs, product teams cannot create conceptual models for 
their eventual users. Knowledge workers must build their own 
nesting and interrelated understandings as part of adopting a 
computing tool into their own work practices. However, product 
teams can develop intended conceptual models for various 
parts of their applications and seek to communicate these 
models through embedded design characteristics and explicit 
instruction. 

Domain: Generally connotes a unique specialty in knowledge 
work. Domains can encompass a broad range of existing cultural 
knowledge and skills, ranging from general methods of practic- 
ing to highly specific information and abilities that are crucial 
for successfully accomplishing work activities. 

Design strategy: The singular, relatively unchanging propos- 
als that summarize the essence of an envisioned application's 
scope, core value, points of emotional connection, and ap- 
proaches to mediating knowledge work. Design strategies are 
situated within a larger context of targeted user needs, tech- 


nological possibilities, market forces, trends, and predictions. 
Product teams can use these strategies to drive clarity in their 
offerings and focus their members around a shared vision and 
goal set. Since they are derived from key business, marketing, 
and product development considerations, design strategies can 
be thought of as a lower level expression of a computing tool's 
initiating, high level charter. 

Envisioning: See definition for "application envisioning." 

Envisioning questions: Points of inquiry that get product teams 
thinking about divergent factors that could shape their appli- 
cation concepts. Envisioning questions are answered through 
active, considered, and participatory processes of research and 
design exploration. 

Financial trader: See definition for "financial trading domain." 
See also the "Primer on example knowledge work domains" 
section for additional background information. 

Financial trading domain: The many specializations of financial 
trading are, generally speaking, about the exchange of financial 
instruments to maximize returns for traders, their firms, and 
their clients. Some aspects of these complex work practices 
are used in examples throughout this book. See the "Primer 
on example knowledge work domains" section for additional 
background information. 

Functional area: A larger area within an application, often orga- 
nized around a particular goal or set of actions. Functional areas 
can be designated by a prominent heading in an application's 
navigation and a separate "place" or "section" within a tool. A 
single functional area can typically be further broken down into 
a number of individual options and related interactivities. See 
also definitions for "functionality" and "functionality concept." 

Functionality: Features in a knowledge work application that 
are provided as goal oriented options for workers to use in their 
own activity contexts. Some functionalities may be highly spe- 
cific tools for narrow goals, while others may be more general 
purpose and open to users' interpretations. Applications are 
typically comprised of many functionalities, and individuals may 
use some available options more frequently than others, de- 
pending on how they see a product fitting into their local ways 
of thinking and acting. See also definitions for "functional area" 
and "functionality concept." 

Functionality Concept: Sketched possibilities for work media- 
tion that product teams generate as a part of their envisioning 
explorations. These concepts represent a goal oriented scenario 
for potential user experience, including a team's proposed 
design responses to targeted problems and constraints. See also 



CLOSING MATTER | GLOSSARY 


definitions for "functional area" and "functionality." 

Information management application: In the context of this 
book's examples, this term refers to a computing tool for clini- 
cal research. These applications, also known as a Laboratory 
Information Management Systems (LIMS), can keep track of all 
stored data about a laboratory, from the stock on the shelves 
to the results of genetic tests. Many of these systems also 
provide functionality for defining and monitoring laboratory 
workflow, allowing scientists to design and distribute experi- 
mental protocols for lab technicians and automated instruments 
to follow. Since LIMS are often open to integration with other 
applications, they can become a central hub for connecting all 
of a laboratory's computing infrastructure. See the "Primer on 
example knowledge work domains" section for additional back- 
ground information on the clinical research computing examples 
used throughout this book. 

Interaction object: The comprehensible elements within an ap- 
plication that workers act on in order to accomplish their goals. 
Interaction objects are defined from users' activity oriented per- 
spectives, and they do not necessarily correspond to the idea of 
"objects" in the computer science sense of the word. Product 
teams can translate key interaction objects from artifacts in 
workers' existing practices, which can then become meaning- 
ful elements of an application's intended conceptual models. 
Other objects can represent novel system ideas that would 
otherwise not exist in targeted knowledge work culture. Interac- 
tion objects can nest and interrelate, and ideas for additional, 
low level objects may emerge during the product development 
process. The notion of interaction objects is derived from Ben 
Shneiderman's "Object-Action Interface Model" (1998), without 
its emphasis on direct manipulation. 

Interaction pattern: A reusable convention in the design of 
interactive applications. These conventions are often thought 
of at the "literal" level, containing specific arrangements of 
information and user interface controls. Interaction patterns 
can also usefully represent larger commonalities in conventional 
interactions, such as approaches to entire application structures 
or task processes. 

Interactive computing: In the context of knowledge work, ap- 
plications of computing that workers directly interact with, as 
opposed to an increasing number of embedded applications 
that are effectively hidden in artifacts in a way that prevents 
users from having direct control over their behaviors. This book 
primarily focuses on interactive applications that could be feasi- 
bly implemented on personal computers at the time of writing. 

Interactive application: A specialized computing tool for 
mediating targeted activities, including both installed products 


and those that are accessed via the Internet. In the context of 
envisioning potential user experiences in knowledge work, the 
emphasis of this term falls less on the technical construction of 
a tool and more on its potential definition and design opportu- 
nities. 

Interaction model: The highest level expression of an appli- 
cation's structure. A "shell" that determines how interactive 
behaviors and disclosures essentially flow within a computing 
tool. An interaction model frames the full scope of an onscreen 
product, outlining the interactive approaches and points of 
access for its constituent functional concepts. In contemporary 
personal computing, where some sort of keyboard and pointing 
method are essentially a given, interaction models may reside 
largely in the onscreen structure and behaviors of a knowledge 
work tool, rather than in specialized hardware controls. 

Knowledge work: A broad category of human activity that is 
focused on inventing, producing, interpreting, manipulating, 
transforming, applying, and communicating information using 
specialized skills and knowledge. 

Knowledge workers: Individuals who, in their working lives, are 
valued for their specialized intellectual skills and their ability to 
act on and with complex information in goal oriented ways. This 
term can refer to specialized professions (such as the architect, 
financial trader, and scientist found in the examples throughout 
this book) or more generalized vocations. 

Object: See definition for "interaction object." 

Organization: Any group of individuals working together with 
shared goals and, in many cases, a division of labor and respon- 
sibilities. This umbrella includes groups such as non profits and 
online collaboratives, as well as those that are more commonly 
associated with knowledge work in the business world. 

Magic happens expectation: A problematic expectation in prod- 
uct teams that a successful, even visionary, product will some- 
how emerge solely from the sum of countless detailed defini- 
tion, design, and implementation decisions — without a larger 
design strategy or application concept as guiding road map. See 
also definitions for "straight to the details progression" 
and "single vision and concept design." 

Market information application: These computing tools allow 
financial traders to investigate current and historical data about 
specific market sectors and traded financial instruments from 
a variety of different perspectives. The feeds and visualizations 
in these applications can help traders to stay current on market 
happenings and to better assess potential deals. See the "Prim- 
er on example knowledge work domains" section for additional 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


137 


background information on the financial trading computing 
examples used throughout this book. 

Mediate / mediation: Refers to an interactive application's 
interfacing role between workers and their goals, as coarsely 
borrowed from Alexei Leontiev's Activity Theory. Each approach 
to supporting a work practice with technology presents differ- 
ent "mediating" changes to the essential nature of that practice. 
Knowledge workers will inevitably view some mediation 
approaches as more attractive and successful than others. 

Models of problem spaces: Artifacts that summarize meaning- 
ful primary research, secondary research, and design research 
insights into clear and informative representations that map out 
relevant regions of product possibility. These models can take 
a variety of forms, ranging from graphs, to textual stories, to 
storyboards, to video exposition. 

Offloading: Reducing the work needed to accomplish an action 
by distributing some of the effort to an interactive application, 
collaborator, or another part of a distributed work system. 
Actions that initiate offloading can range from deliberate and 
intentional to implicit and subconscious. Offloading effort can 
change the essential nature of work practices. After a comput- 
ing tool has been appropriated into a workplace culture, par- 
ticipating individuals, in their accommodated ways of thinking 
and acting, may not even recognize how they opportunistically 
offload effort to the external artifact. 

Operation: Within a product team's rationalized models of 
work practice, operations are low level actions that workers 
can perform. Individual operations are typically enacted in a 
sequence in order to accomplish larger goals for interacting with 
a system. Operations are one part of the "operations, tasks, and 
activities" hierarchical approach to modeling work (see other 
definitions in this glossary), as coarsely borrowed from Alexei 
Leontiev's Activity Theory. Multiple operations comprise a task. 

Product: See definition for "application." In many cases, the 
term "service" could be equally applicable (though it was not 
extensively used throughout this book in order to promote 
brevity). Although the term "product" has a commercial con- 
notation, the applications discussed here could also be created 
by an open source community or internally developed within 
specific organizations. 

Product Teams: The primary audience of this book; a group of 
people creating an interactive application for knowledge work. 
For the purposes of this text, product teams' memberships can 
include anyone who plays a role in product development, with 
a special emphasis on those individuals who are (or could be) 
involved during early, strategic, application envisioning efforts. 


This broad definition can include anyone from high level 
management to knowledge work "customers" who are 
brought on as advisors and design participants. 

Progressive disclosure: A design approach which can decrease 
perceptual load and promote more effective use of limited 
screen areas by "hiding" some content and functionality until 
it is interactively accessed, as needed, through users' goal 
oriented pathways. 

Scaffolding: Borrowed from Lev Vygotsky's ideas on the Zone 
of Proximal Development, scaffolding is application content or 
functionalities that provide workers with supporting structures 
for their learning, based on an understanding of their current 
knowledge and abilities. Users can accomplish more with the 
support of scaffolding, and by doing so, they can make learning 
leaps that may be more difficult without such support. After an 
individual has learned a scaffolded interaction, the supporting 
features can often be removed from day to day use. Alternately, 
in some cases, these features may be left in place to provide 
some ongoing utility. 

Scientist: See definition for "clinical research domain." See also 
the "Primer on example knowledge work domains" section for 
additional background information. 

Settings: Meaningful parameters in an application that workers 
can have some measure of control over. These parameters can 
be highly flexible and numerous in applications for early adopt- 
ers. By contrast, in highly developed products that target less 
invested user segmentations, guiding product settings may be 
relatively few in number and more constrained in scope. 

Single vision and concept design: The problematic approach by 
which product teams iteratively create only one de facto design 
strategy and corresponding application concept. These singular 
progressions often begin with a rush toward implementation 
and only limited ideas about product direction and potential 
meaning. Although teams practicing this type of design may 
evolve their own conceptions about their applications at a 
detailed level, their lack of early, divergent thinking about work 
mediation can be considered a failure to strategically explore 
potential directions within their initial, high level charters. See 
also "straight to the details progression" and "magic happens 
expectation." 

Sketch: A rough representation of a framing idea or potential 
design direction, generated within a product team during the 
application envisioning process. Teams can sketch at many levels 
of granularity, ranging from an application's overall vector to the 
diminutive shape of a small functionality concept. During early 
envisioning, teams typically create sketches to capture and con- 



CLOSING MATTER | GLOSSARY 


vey potential options for mediating work, not to solidify highly 
specific design details like those found in later prototypes. 
Although the outputs of sketching exercises are often some sort 
of drawing, teams may also usefully "sketch" their ideas in video 
and other media. 

Straight to the details progression: The problematic progression 
by which product teams quickly move from high level consid- 
eration of product strategy into the specifics of an application's 
definition, design, and implementation. This progression can be 
fueled by various team members' specialized focuses on par- 
ticular techno-centric facets of their products. See also "magic 
happens expectation" and "single vision and concept design." 

Tailored: Designed or customized to meet the specific needs of 
targeted knowledge workers and their organizations, as situated 
in the context of well characterized cultures and activities. 

Task: Within a product team's rationalized models of work prac- 
tice, tasks are a goal oriented action that workers can perform. 
Tasks may be nameable, discussed elements of workers' shared 
cultural models of their own work, or they may be unspoken 
routines and improvisations. A product team's application 
concepts may aim to effectively eliminate some existing tasks 
in workers' practices while introducing new ones that could 
stem from the adoption of their product. Tasks are one part 
of the "operations, tasks, and activities" hierarchical approach 
to modeling work (see other definitions in this glossary), as 
coarsely borrowed from Alexei Leontiev's Activity Theory (where 
the term "Action" is used instead of "Task"). Multiple operations 
comprise a task. Multiple tasks comprise an activity, though not 
all of the tasks associated with a particular activity may occur 
within the confines of a single interactive application. 

Trading application: As a financial traders' "window" into their 
firm's valuable information, these computing tools typically 
allow users to examine shared trading records and to book new 
deals. Trading applications often automate many tedious opera- 
tions ranging from small data predictions when filling out forms 
to automatic routing and processing of completed deals through 
a number of related systems. See the "Primer on example 
knowledge work domains" section for additional background 
information on the financial trading computing examples used 
throughout this book. 

Work practice: The actual methods, as opposed to idealized no- 
tions of process, by which knowledge workers accomplish their 
efforts. People may have different approaches to accomplishing 
the same categories of activity, and observations of knowledge 
work often reveal considerably more improvisation, situated 
decision making, communication, cooperation, and collabora- 
tion than is commonly acknowledged by individual workers or 


their organizations. See also definition for "work process." 

Work process: Established ways of working that are formally 
agreed upon within an organization or larger profession. In 
many types of knowledge work, especially in those domains 
where practitioners have developed considerable skills and 
expertise, established processes may arise from formal 
acknowledgement and standardization of workers' own 
emergent practices. Alternately, work processes may be defined 
based on top down considerations, such as legal or business 
operations requirements. See also definition for "work practice." 

Workflow: Established work processes where efforts are 
distributed among a number of different individuals, often 
based on the assigned roles that these people play within a 
group or larger organization. Depending on the context, 
workflow can also be a synonym for "work process." 

Workspace awareness: As outlined in Gutwin and Greenberg 
(2002), this type of awareness can be thought of as an ongo- 
ing sense, often without conscious attention, of others' actions 
within a shared locale. In shared computing environments, this 
awareness can be especially relevant when it pertains to actions 
that could impact cooperative or collaborative efforts. Work- 
space awareness can be critical for promoting coordination and 
communication, potentially leading to fewer errors and higher 
quality work outcomes. Knowledge work applications can 
provide specialized workspace awareness functionalities to 
counter the individualized, often isolating interactions of 
contemporary personal computing. 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


138 



CLOSING MATTER 


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WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


141 



CLOSING MATTER 


WORKING THROUGH SCREENS 


About the Author + FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc. 


Jacob Burghardt is the founder of FLASHBULB INTERACTION, 

Inc. He is a research, strategy, and design consultant who spe- 
cializes in helping product teams to envision powerful, engag- 
ing, and productive interactive applications for knowledge work. 

Jacob was drawn to a specialty in knowledge work products 
after seeing how innovative tools in this space can make 
meaningful differences in the experiences of people practicing 
their chosen vocations. He views these meaningful differences 
through the lens of pioneering visions in interactive computing, 
which optimistically outlined the potential for technologies to 
augment our cognitive and collaborative abilities as we solve 
important problems. 

In his nine years of experience focused on computing tools for 
knowledge work, Jacob has worked for industry leading clients 
on diverse application types, including aviation navigation, 
scientific instrumentation and analysis, product lifecycle man- 
agement, specialized financial trading and back office, creative 
asset workflow, supply chain management, and online media. 

In his consulting efforts, Jacob seeks to reframe status quo 
conversations in the development of specialized technologies 
for knowledge workers. He works with clients to advance their 
dialog toward a better understanding of design strategy, while 
emphasizing underlying principles and possibilities in computer 
mediated work practice. 

Jacob challenges clients with new goals and processes, support- 
ing product teams as they envision diverse offerings and sketch 
elaborative concepts. To inform strategic ideation and ensure 
real world relevance, he facilitates purposeful, direct, and col- 
laborative conversations between his clients and current or 
potential end users of their interactive products. 

Jacob has lectured and published on topics in user experience. 
He holds a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in Technical Communi- 
cation from the University of Washington. "Working through 
Screens" is his first book length publication. 


This book was written as the inaugural publication of 
FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc., a consulting firm that works 
with clients to envision powerful and engaging experiences for 
knowledge workers at the forefronts of their fields. 

We use design thinking to positively transform workplace 
applications. 

We work with clients seeking to set higher goals, ask new 
questions, and explore innovative answers. 

We believe that computing tools for knowledge workers 
should be envisioned from a perspective that is distinct 
from those used to conceive consumer products and other 
technologies. 

We help our clients improve peoples' working lives by 
advancing tools for thought that target valuable intersec- 
tions of activity and technological possibility. 

We act as trainers, advisors, facilitators — augmenting and 
inspiring client teams as they envision new and improved 
onscreen offerings. 

We collaboratively investigate, interpret, and visualize ap- 
plication design challenges in a way that drives decision 
making, shared vision, and meaningful innovation. 

We are big believers in concepting relevant futures as a 
pathway to defining larger strategic directions. 

We provide services that target diverse client challenges, 
ranging from educating product teams, to evaluating and 
extending existing functionality, to informing application 
ideation through targeted research, to envisioning entirely 
new product concepts. 


If the contents of this book have struck a chord in the context 
of your own product definition and design challenges, please 
consider contacting FLASHBULB INTERACTION to discuss how 
we could help your team better envision a new or iteratively 
improved knowledge work application. 

E - info@Flashbulblnteraction.com 
P- 206.280.3135 
F- 206.260.6280 

W - www.Flashbulblnteraction.com 


142 


NOTE: Contents of this page exempt from Creative Commons 
license for this publication. Copyright 2008 
FLASHBULB INTERACTION, Inc. 



WORKING THROUGH 

Working through Screens is the inaugural publication of FLASHBULBINTERACTION, Inc. 

This book is available in print on demand, free .html and free .pdf formats at www.Flashbulblnteraction.com, 
where you can also find a free, abbreviated “Idea Cards” .pdf version designed for use in product ideation exercises 


All original contents of this publication are subject to the Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial- 
ShareAlike http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/) unless otherwise noted. 

Please attribute the work to “Jacob Burghardt / FLASHBULB INTERACTION Consultancy.” 


SCREENS